Many of us have been asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school for as long as we can remember, but few of us know why, or even if we are the only people doing so.
On October 18, 2001, just over a month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, the New York City Board Of Education (BOE) voted to require reciting the Pledge every day in public schools. The BOE felt that an increased spirit of patriotism was needed after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, and that the Pledge would be an appropriate way of paying respect to those who lost their lives.
The original Pledge of Allegiance, “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands—one nation indivisible—with liberty and justice for all,” was written in September of 1892 by Christian Socialist Francis Bellamy.
The first organized use of the Pledge of Allegiance was on October 12, 1892, when over 12 million American school children recited it to commemorate the 400 year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage.
In 1923, the first National Flag Conference in Washington D.C. voted to change the words “my flag” to “the Flag of the United States of America” to assure that immigrant children weren’t swearing allegiance to the flags of their homelands.
Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance in 1942, but in 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that public school students could not be forced to recite it. At Stuyvesant, the school is “required to give each student the opportunity to say the Pledge,” principal Stanley Teitel said. “Students are not obligated to say it, but if you aren’t, you should not disturb the students who want to say the Pledge.”
As it turns out, however, there are qualms with the Pledge of Allegiance, and many students choose not to recite it. Sophomore Ahlam Rafita thinks the main issue that students have may be pledging to “one nation, under god.” “I don’t stand up during the pledge because of the ‘under god’,” Rafita said. “We all believe in different religions, and in that way, it makes all the difference.”
The words “under God” were added in 1954 during the height of McCarthyism by then President Eisenhower, who was inspired by his Presbyterian pastor’s homage to Abraham Lincoln’s use of the phrase in his Gettysburg Address.
The use of the word “God” is not the only reason that students refrain from reciting the pledge. Many students choose not to recite the pledge because they feel that the words are empty and have lost their meaning. “We’ve been saying the pledge since kindergarten without thinking about what it means. It seems superfluous,” sophomore Polina Rozina said.
Other students, however, choose to not say the pledge simply because they don’t feel like standing up during announcements. “I don’t say [the pledge] in the morning. It’s mostly just laziness,” senior Daniel Hyman-Cohen said. He agrees with “the ideals and the Constitution of the United States, just not the words of the Pledge,” he said.
Though many do not to recite the pledge, there are still those who choose to do so. Every morning, sophomores Tarif Anzum and Morgan Higgins say the Pledge of Allegiance. For Anzum and Higgins, it’s a matter of respect. “The ‘under God’ line is controversial,” Higgins said. “You don’t have to say that line but you need to respect your country.”
As is evident within the Stuyvesant community, there are many different views on reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Some may disagree with its purpose, while others embrace the patriotism that they believe the Pledge embodies. Some have problems with its rhetoric, while others disregard the controversy surrounding it. Students’ views toward reciting the pledge are as diverse as the student body itself. But regardless of your stance on reciting the Pledge, you are most likely one of many who have similar opinions of your own.