Pledge mandate, history causes mixed feelings among students and staff
By Hialeah Bever
For the first time in recent memory, BHS is once again reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. As of May 20, 2021, Governor Kim Reynolds signed the HF 847 bill, which requires schools to recite the pledge every day. And while BHS administration prepared to integrate the decision into the school day, the bill has left students pondering the personal meaning of the pledge and learning about the unknown and controversial past it holds.
The history of the pledge began with minister Francis Bellamy, the author of the pledge’s first draft. Bellamy’s intent was for the vows to be said by any citizen, of any country, so he included vague wording like, “my Flag and the Republic.”
Bellamy’s pledge had its first recorded recital on Oct. 12, 1892, with an estimated 12 million school children participating in the Pledge of Allegiance to commemorate the journey of Christopher Columbus.
Though a flag in each classroom was commonplace in 1892, the BHS administration had to prepare for this upcoming school year by checking for and ordering any flags that were missing.
“Our immediate reaction was ‘How many classrooms do we have?’ and ‘How many places do we need flags?’ Making sure we have those things in order, and that we were covering the logistics,” said associate principal Kristy Cleppe.
Additionally, the BHS administration had to choose when to recite the pledge. Though it seems simple, the time of day was taken into careful consideration, in hopes there was a block in which a majority of students were present in class.
“We have kids coming and going all the time. Seniors could have classes at Scott or an off block,” said Principal Boley. “So we talked about second period during announcements, since there was already time built into the day. It made sense for our students to lead it because I feel that it’s always more valuable if it comes from the students than if it comes from me.”
It was also important to administration to be conscientious of today’s political climate and to make sure that all student’s viewpoints were respected.
“Students have the option to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance by standing, some students may want to place their hand over their heart. Other students may not stand and remain seated, we just ask all students not to be disruptive or talking during the pledge,” said associate principal Kevin Skillet.
But the controversy surrounding the pledge is nothing new, as it has had a long history of debatable changes in the past.
The first modification to the pledge came from the influx of immigrants in the early 1920s. Organizations like the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution recommended changing the previous vague wording into “the flag,” out of fear that the incoming citizens would misunderstand the pledge and think they were vowing allegiance to their native country instead of the U.S.
The second change was the eradication of the Bellamy salute which originally had students raising their right hand and pointing it towards the flag. But the salute bore a resemblance to the “Heil Hitler!” salute used by Nazi Germany. Understandably, in 1942, the pledge’s salute was dropped and replaced by a simple hand over the heart.
The most recent change to the Pledge of Allegiance came in 1954, in which the words “Under God” were added by Eisenhower during the Cold War, in hopes it would strengthen American democracy against the threat of communism. The president stated that the change would “reaffirm the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future” and “strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”
Francis Bellamy’s granddaughter opposed the change, citing her grandfather’s original intentions for the pledge and stating that it violated the Bill of Rights, which calls for separation of church and state. This mirrors the sentiments of one-third of modern Americans who support removing the words, according to the American Humanist Association.
“I don’t think ‘Under God’ should be in the Pledge of Allegiance, specifically because we’re supposed to be a country with freedom of religion,” said Kendahl Springfield. “If you have people sitting out of your country’s national pledge for religious reasons, it’s probably time to change it.”
But these opinions aren’t reflective of America’s majority, who either feel indifferent or support the inclusion of the words.
“A majority of America is religious and believe in some form of god, so by not specifying which one it would be it leaves it open. ‘Under God’ is what we believe our nation is under,” said Ethan Cole.
Beyond the religious addition and the contradicting opinions that followed, students also had differing thoughts on the personal meaning of the pledge, though the official meaning for the United States Pledge of Allegiance is to vow loyalty to the U.S.
“The pledge means absolutely nothing to me, it is propaganda they throw at children,” said Springfield.
“The pledge makes me feel more American than if we didn’t say it,” said Cole. “I’m allegiant to this country.”
Despite the mixed feelings, administration hasn’t received any complaints regarding the pledge and expects those sentiments to continue throughout the year.
“There isn’t a lot we can do when mandates come in from the government,” said Cleppe. “Regardless, we know that students are going to feel differently about this, so it’s important to stay respectful and to tolerate differences.
Hialeah Bever is a junior. This is her second year as staff writer for The Growl
and her first as editor.