Allow patriotic pledge

Students’ freedom to express patriotism in school is being challenged by Madison, Wis., parents. Early Tuesday, the Madison School Board overturned a decision banning the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, inciting a slew of angry calls and letters from parents continuing their campaign to have it removed completely.

Francis Bellamy authored the Pledge for an 1892 National School Celebration in an effort to encourage schoolchildren to support the flag and analyze its importance to the United States. Although use has expanded, its purpose remains to promote thought, discussion and debate and its presence in high schools is therefore justified.

American society has traditionally been a marketplace of ideas, an open forum where people express themselves freely and can hear different viewpoints. Banning the Pledge in schools for religious reasons contradicts this ideal and is detrimental to students. The Pledge’s presence allows expression of two viewpoints: students who agree with the Pledge are able to participate and those who do not are given an opportunity to share with their peers why they refuse to participate. Few young people examine their beliefs, and fewer explore those of others. Exposing them to controversy will encourage them to do so, increasing the likelihood they will take an active role in their beliefs. Dissenting opinion will compel students to contemplate the meaning of the Pledge and will advance valuable discussion and thought.

Parents also object to the Pledge in schools because they argue it will be difficult for children to withstand peer pressure urging participation. Students at a high school level who possess strong convictions should be able to articulate them, and if they cannot, it is a perfect opportunity to learn. In the real world, people will challenge their beliefs every day, and sending students into the world completely unprepared is unfair. If they can defend themselves, they will be more assertive with their convictions and aware of what they mean later in life. The advent of this religious examination will also encourage parents to discuss religion with their children, which will give children a support base and make parents responsible for reinforcing the importance of religious teachings.

The aspiration of parents to have only politically correct ideas available to children destroys the most basic aspect of democracy: the freedom of ideas. It succeeds only in creating a sterile academic environment and discouraging thought, analysis and the advancement of ideas in society. These are necessary for students to understand the complexity of religious ideals. Allowing the Pledge of Allegiance in schools inspires students to probe into the meaning of their beliefs, and shows them how these beliefs can coexist with those of others.