Politics & Policy

No, Children Should Not ‘Be Required’ to Say the Pledge at School

It would be unfortunate for a student to be punished for his or her refusal, which would provide an excellent teachable moment.

A new Rasmussen poll found that 61 percent of American adults believe that American children “should be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning at school.”

The poll found that only 28 percent opposed saying the pledge every day, while 11 percent were undecided.

Now, as Rasmussen notes, this new poll actually represents a decline of support for the requirement from previous years. It reached a high, for example, in 2008 — with 77 percent supporting it.

Personally, however, I believe that the number of people who want this required should be even lower.

Do I hate the Pledge? Do I hate the country? No — far from it. In fact, I actually do think that schools should start each day with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and if I were attending one of them, I would be there saying it proudly with my hand over my heart. My problem is not with the Pledge itself; it’s with the words “be required.”

Think about it: The whole purpose of a child being in school is for him or her to learn things, and our country’s values should certainly be among them. One of those values, of course, is free speech. Make no mistake: Deciding to abstain from the Pledge of Allegiance does communicate something, and therefore, it is a form of speech. It’s also a form of peaceful protest, the right to which is another one of our values. So, although I would disagree with anyone who refused to say the Pledge, I would also hate to see any student being punished for his or her refusal.

This is especially true because allowing refusals would provide an excellent teachable moment, allowing the teacher and the pupils to engage in an open, honest dialogue about our country’s values. These are discussions we should be encouraging our students to have, not trying to avoid.

In short, my view on this is similar to my support for keeping flag-burning legal: It’s not that I’m not a patriot for feeling this way, it is because I am a patriot that I do feel this way. Few things are more important to me than the values that we hold dear in this country, and so I believe that there are few things that could be more important to teach our students in the classroom. We should never shy away from leading these lessons, and such a requirement, unfortunately, may result in a missed opportunity to do just that.

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