EDITORIAL: Pledge teaches important lessons

The controversy over the Pledge of Allegiance couldn’t have come at a better time. With the 4th of July arriving, it’s a good time to talk about freedom and patriotism.

As we all know by now, two federal judges last week declared that it’s unconstitutional to require recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools because it mentions God, as in “one nation under God.” A third judge dissented, and later the author of the opinion, following a nation-wide public uproar, made sure that it couldn’t take effect until more judges ponder the same issue during the appeal process.

We differ with the two judges that the word “God” constitutes the establishment of religion. Even though God dates back only to 1954 in the Pledge of Allegiance, keep it in there. It makes the pledge an even better teaching tool than when it was written in the 1890s.

Teachers should use the Pledge of Allegiance to teach important concepts to their students. Otherwise, it’s just a parroting exercise done every morning after the bell rings. The pledge contains words not seldom discussed among students who are being raised in an atmosphere of me-first consumerism. Words like “pledge,” “allegiance,” “republic,” “indivisible,” and even, “God.”

Good teachers in Oak Harbor, Coupeville and elsewhere in Washington state should first make sure the students know that no one — not even the state — can make them recite the Pledge of Allegiance. That in itself is a great lesson in freedom. Oak Harbor School District policy on the pledge simply states, “Students who do not recite the pledge shall maintain a respectful silence.” Identical words protecting each student’s right to not participate are found in state law.

Those who choose to recite the pledge should first have to study what the words mean. How about some history on pledges? Throughout history, oaths have been required of men who recited them simply because it was the law. A pledge has no meaning unless stated freely. Students need to know the meaning of allegiance, and how it too is something that has to be freely given. They need to know that a republic is a society that receives its power from the consent of the governed, and that we fought a Civil War to make sure our republic remains indivisible, and can’t be torn apart.

The words “under God” are a great lead-in to the discussion of separation of church and state, and the various beliefs and non-beliefs that citizens of this republic have about God. Students should know the various interpretations of God, and be taught to respect everyone’s right to their own opinion. If you decide to recite most of the pledge and leave out the part about God, that’s your right as an American.

What students should know about the Pledge of Allegiance is that those who choose to recite the entire pledge, those who choose to remain silent, and those who choose to recite only a part can all be good Americans.

That’s what we’re all celebrating on Thursday. Happy Independence Day.

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