1st Amendment Series: to pledge or not to pledge

In schools across America, the pledge of allegiance is a daily routine. Typically, right after the morning announcements, students stand and wholeheartedly recite the pledge with hand over heart. Most times, students don’t have any context of what they’re pledging for, but they know it’s what they’re supposed to do. It’s not something you question.

Imagine though, that after listening to your parents talk about current events, you decide the pledge is meaningless to you. Maybe after watching the news, you decide that you agree with Colin Kaepernick, so you stop pledging. It’s your own form of a peaceful protest.

On his first week of school, a middle schooler from Farmington Hills, Michigan, Stone Chaney did just that and his teacher got physical with him. He hasn’t gone back since.

Since its birth, America has been advertised as the best country in the world. It’s where dreams come true, people all across the globe come here to fulfill the American dream. It’s the home of the free. After all, Americans frequently boast their right to free speech as if no other country allowed this liberty. A country that promotes its freedom as one of its prized possessions should accept the thought of the marginalized speaking out against injustice with open arms and an open heart.

For a country to prize its right free speech as one of its greatest assets, anyone should be able to express their beliefs as they choose; even if that’s at school. Besides, public schools are part of the government, therefore schools should uphold the constitution. Public schools are not separate countries that make their own laws.

Students, like anyone else in the country, develop their own opinions. Just like anyone else in the country, have a right to express those beliefs. Countless teachers across the United States don’t seem to think so.

In American public schools, students are being physically forced to stand up during the pledge under the guise of patriotism. The question is often “why are students disrespecting the flag” instead of “what makes them feel this way?” It is not random nor a coincidence that people choose to sit during the flag during in the same period of time they feel as though America does not have its best interest at heart.  

It has already been established by the Supreme Court 74 years ago that it’s unconstitutional to force a student to pledge allegiance to the American flag. The topic shouldn’t be so controversial after all these years.

Public schools should function as any other governmental organization and encourage students’ differing beliefs. Students grow up to function in a world outside of school,  and preventing them from expressing themselves is a setup. Not worshipping a piece of a fabric is not an attack on American selfhood. The purpose is for Americans to look in the mirror and question what they could do better.

Besides, the founding fathers of this country stressed the importance of free speech. To be truly patriotic, Americans need to uphold those standards.

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