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History of the Pledge of Allegiance
While researching the history of public schools in America, I ran across this historical gem: Methods Teaching Patriotism in the Public Schools.
In 1887, after the end of the Civil War and Reconstruction, retired Union Army Coronal and New York Public School Auditor, George T Balch envisions a manual on how to teach patriotism and American values to public school children and immigrants.
Due to the large number of immigrants and foreign born students crowing into New York, George believed that to teach "American principles" through ritual and practice could foster a sense of American identity in people. He was instrumental in developing the ritual that would become today's Pledge of Allegiance.
The George Balch pledge included a descriptive military style flag handling etiquette along with instructions for arm and hand gestures for the salute.
The Original Pledge went as follows:
In the salute, "students touched first their foreheads, then their hearts, reciting together
'We give our Heads! --
and our Hearts! --
to God! and our Country!'
Then... with their right arms outstretched and slightly elevated, palm up, in the direction of the flag, they completed the salute:
I have immersed myself into researching this fascinating and controversial subject of recitation of the pledge as it wormed its way into schools, lives and finally embedded into law.
April. 22, 1898 First Law to mandate pledge recitation in public schools was passed in New York the day after the Spanish American war began.
This mandated version of the pledge was written by Frank Bellamy.
“I pledge allegiance to my flag, and
The Republic for which it stands-
One Nation, indivisible,
with Liberty and Justice for all”
The pledge included the hand and arm gestures.
The Youth's Companion meets Columbus Day 400th Anniversary
Frank Bellamy worked for "The Youth's Companion as publicity chairman to organize the upcoming national public school 400th Columbus Day celebration.
The Owner of the Youth's Companion wanted to take advantage of the event to promote and sell U.S. flags to public schools.
The celebration was a success. Thousands of schools, members of the public and others purchased flags. The bellamy pledge was repeated simultaneously by thousands of public school students across the nation.
A New Tradition Begins
Enthusiasm for Flags and Patriotism swept the nation, exponentially growing through the Spanish/American War, two World wars, Red-Scares and Cold wars.
Resisters. objectors to mandatory reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States Flag were treated harshly. Anti-Jehovah's Witness mania developed in 1935 after J. W.'s members refused to recite the Pledge. Kingdom halls were destroyed, children expelled by the hundreds, parents threatened with truancy law or social services removing children from their custody. The Jehovah's Witnesses believe that to salute and recite a pledge to a flag is forbidden by the Bible, Chapter 20 of Exodus. And Flag manufacturers flourished, prices increase up to 300%.
1942, the hand and arm gestures were removed from the pledge when it was realized the salute resembled the Nazi Hitler salute.
06/14/1943 the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional to force public school children to recite the ledge of allegiance.
Justice Robert H. Jackson, said "Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."
Ya, what he said. That should have been the end of the issue, wouldn't you think?
Nope. In 1954 after years of intense lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, President Eisenhower approved the resolution to insert the phrase 'Under God' into the Pledge of Allegiance.
That was a dividing moment for America.
- We the peeps could have decided to appreciate the presence of the U.S. flag in National Public Schools sans pledge and feel as cozy as any family reunion everywhere...
- We could support an Unconstitunal, one-size-fits-all, government approved, declaration guaranteed to offend religious and secular minorities everywhere... (Amish, Jewish, Jehovah's Witnesses, Buddhists, Muslim, secular, Indigenous..agnostics, African, protestants)
And the lawsuits continue.
The Pledge of Allegiance in its current form:
"I Pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
What to Do, What to Think?
What I've learned the most is the more I learn the stupider I get. Every link reveals new mysteries unfold.
I predict the fate of the Pledge of Allegiance will eventually fall upon bureaucrats who will drop or replace with politically correct, innocuous, vapid language of bureaucracy designed to offend no one save everyone.
May I suggest that America is the battleground of the Reformation which continues to this day like a taffy machine molding, pulling, pushing till the mix homogenizes.
People who believe we should not have the right to say "No!" to government collide with people who say "No" to the government without concern. PS: Should you choose to say "No!" be prepared to take a bit the grief for that "No!" Cautionary tale warning to children "pick your noes wisely, your freedom depends upon it.
I'm not a religious person. I don't say Under God when I say the Pledge of Allegiance because that would make me a liar. If I must lie to pledge allegiance, there is no liberty or justice for all. I have had difficulty with the compulsary pledge from day one however I love the flag, the country and appreciate the struggles it took patriots to cleave America from English oppression.
School Contest Proposal
What do you think would happen if all schools everywhere would hold a contest - What Means America?
Ask students questions so they may describe what is their vision of the United States of America? Maybe we can beat the bureaucrats to the punch!
Questions could include:
- What is America to We the Peeps?
- If you had your druthers, how would you
- Explain America
- Construct a poem, song or saying
- Invent a pledge to encompass American values
- Explain American values to an immigrant, to a child
- What is important about the United States of America
- What does the Constitution mean to you?
As I continue to research the history and evolution of Public Schools, as I gather links to resources I'll update this page. This pledge, the flag conundrum is one big, fat, frustrating Gordian_Knot with a twist of Alice in Wonderland tossed in for flavor.
The links below seemed credible, historically factual and educational web sites with few or no advertisements.