Given the recent discussion about a school in Florida that issued parent waivers for opting out of the Pledge of Allegiance and Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to participate in the National Anthem, it seems timely to discuss the importance of the Pledge of Allegiance. The pledge shouldn’t be regarded as an empty tradition in our nation’s classrooms. It has a purpose, and there are benefits to teaching students the pledge and requiring them to recite it.
Reciting the pledge allows students to practice pledging to something other than themselves. It reminds them that there is a cause greater than themselves. If patriotism erodes, then there will be no desire or, at the least, a sense of duty to improve one’s community. Patriotism cannot survive if our nation’s citizens pledge themselves more to their preferences than the well-being of their nation. The “liberty and justice for all” that we enjoy will erode if our children fail to accept responsibility to their nation.
We enjoy freedom unlike people from any other nation because patriots abandoned personal preferences and comfort to fight for their nation. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance reminds students of the cause these patriots valued. Some have refused to recite the pledge, but why do they have the freedom to refuse? Is a citizen of a communist country permitted the option of protesting their government? Is a citizen of an Islamist country permitted the freedom to protest Islam? The freedom Americans enjoy cannot be found in most nations.
Whether or not citizens have the freedom to refuse the pledge is not the question. After all, this is a nation that allows freedom of speech whether others agree or disagree. The issue at hand is about respect. Refusing the pledge shows a lack of respect for freedoms that were bought by the blood of patriots. Although one may have the freedom to refuse the pledge (or protest the National Anthem), their protest disrespects the patriots’ sacrifices. If our children don’t learn to value the concept of patriotism and show gratitude for the freedom they enjoy, then freedom will die. Freedom cannot survive if no one is willing to be a patriot. And we can’t expect our children to want to grow up to be patriots if patriotism is no longer valued.
Although the freedom to protest a particular issue is a benefit Americans have, children need to learn the difference between protesting an issue and protesting America. It’s self-destructing to protest the system (America) that permits one to engage in protests. If our children intend on living in a nation that offers them freedom to improve their community and protest when necessary, they need to learn to pledge allegiance to the nation that permits such flexibility.
We are a pluralistic nation – ethnically, religiously, socioeconomically, and politically, but our indivisibility lies in a belief in freedom that can hardly be found when searching the annals of history. Teaching patriotism to our kids gives us a means to pass the torch of freedom to the next generation and instill a responsibility to be active citizens and protect their own freedoms.