Scoot: Should All Students Be Forced to Recite Pledge of Allegiance?
An elementary school teacher was suspended for requiring a 4th grade student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class. The teacher, Anne Daigle-McDonald, placed the student’s hand over his heart twice when the class was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The school district in Florida suspended the teacher for 5 days without pay because the young student was a Jehovah’s Witness, and based on his religious beliefs, he did not want to recite the pledge. The teacher admitted she was aware of the student’s religious beliefs, but said she did not know he couldn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance.
Should every student in class be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance - or should a student’s religious beliefs be respected? One obvious argument is that if a student is in a public school in America, then he or she should be required to recite the pledge to our flag and our country. Most of us grew up at a time when there was little, if any, respect for religious beliefs or individual rights. If you were in class at school you would recite the Pledge of Allegiance – period.
We may have an intrinsic desire to rebel against change as we seek comfort and security in our routines and traditions, but should we be so quick to resist change that extends the respect and freedom that is inherit in America’s freedoms? Allowing a student the right to not participate in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance would have no negative impact on the other students. Forcing a student to defy his or her religious beliefs by reciting the pledge does do harm to that student by momentarily taking away their religious freedom.
There are times when many Americans put too much emphasis on tangible things, rather than focus more on what lives in our hearts and minds. I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness, so I can’t speak about their specific beliefs, but just because a student of that faith does not recite the Pledge of Allegiance does not mean that student is not a good citizen who respects America. Any Jehovah’s Witness should respect the freedom to walk door-to-door, freely promoting their religious beliefs.
Reciting a pledge does not make someone patriotic or a good American, in the same way that recitation of the same prayers every week in church does not make one religious.
The tendency to dictate beliefs continues to be a dangerous trend in America. Many of the most controversial debates in this country center on a battle over individual beliefs and the need to direct the private lives of others. The debates over the legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage are essentially debates about individual freedom.
Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school provides no assurance of shaping young students into model citizens. I wonder how many hard-core criminals or people who became unpatriotic activists said the pledge at the beginning of every school day.
Respect for the individual rights and beliefs of others should not be mistaken for political correctness gone wild. Appreciation for diversity in America is not our weakness – it is our strength.