Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pledge of Allegiance

It was on this date in 1945 that Congress recognized the Pledge of Allegiance and urged its recitation in American schools.

Originally written by Francis Bellamy - a Baptist minister and Christian Socialist - in 1892, it was published in the Youth's Companion, a family oriented magazine that had the largest circulation of the time, around 500,000.

Evidently James B. Upham, the nephew of the magazine's owner, who was working in the premium department, had (in 1891) gotten this idea of selling American flags to schools as a premium to solicit subscriptions.

To further promote this idea, Bellamy was hired to work with Upham, and plans were made to include the newly-composed Pledge and salute in flag raising ceremonies across the country for Columbus Day. Bellamy spoke to a national meeting of school superintendents, and they liked the idea so much that they formed a committee, naming him as chairman.

When first published in September 1892, the Pledge read as follows:

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

The original salute, described in detail by Bellamy, was changed from an extended arm during World War II to hand over heart.

[I would have been in the 1st grade in 1943 and participating in the Pledge, but I don't remember specifically doing so. I guess it was just such a natural thing to do then that it doesn't jump out at me from my memory banks. I don't remember ever doing an extended arm salute! It was always hand over heart.]

A few changes have been made to the original Pledge. The word 'to' was added in October that same year; 'my Flag' was changed to 'the Flag of the United States' in 1923; and 'of America' and the words 'under God' were added in 1924 and 1954, respectively. There's a neat chart available here of official versions of the Pledge with changes noted in bold italics.

The only change that Bellamy would have approved of was the addition of the word 'to'. He worked very hard on the initial Pledge, and every word had been carefully selected. He'd wanted to include the word 'equality', but knew that it would never be accepted because women and African Americans were not considered equals. In fact, he later stopped attending church altogether because of the racial bigotry he found there.

I do not actually know whether or not the Pledge of Allegiance is still being recited to begin every class day. I tend to doubt it. When I was teaching in the public schools in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, it was. Now? I don't know.

It's a shame, in my opinion, that God and country seem to be coming more and more under attack. As a person of Christian faith, I am bothered by this. I am old-fashioned enough to think that one should stand to show respect, that doors should be held open, and that heads should be bowed in prayer.

I am proud to be an American. I feel privileged to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance with hand over my heart as a sign of faith and sincerity.


Tammy said...

Emily went to a public school from k-4. The only class in which they recited the pledge was in kindy. Eric went from k-3 and he never recited it in any of his classes. Same for Katie who went from k-1.

Chuck said...

I recall reciting the Pledge every day in elementary school (K-8) which was from 1950-59, and in high school they played the Star Spangled Banner over the school PA at the start of 1st period and we all stood and turned toward the flag.

In my 34 years of high school teaching (1967-2001) the 2 high schools I taught at never did either.


Polimom said...

Several things occur to me when reading this post.

1. Loving God and country seem to me to be completely different concepts. One is a human (political) construct; the other encompasses everything -- all countries and peoples.

2. Since the pledge was not introduced to ("urged" upon) the public schools until 1945, I can't help wondering how it was viewed by people who's experiences pre-dated it.

3. The addition of "Under God" strikes me as totally redundant (see #1).

4. "God" is not a Christians-only concept. Thus, it's not nearly as limiting a phrase as is sometimes claimed.

Finally -- in what way do you see God and country coming under attack? From whom?

Polimom said...

Came across this image in a gallery of shots from the TX panhandle. Seemed like something that would work with this post:

Tascosa School Pledge.

Goldenrod said...

Tammy and Chuck, I thought as much.
Where PA systems were in existence, both when I was a student - however, not in college - and when I was teaching, it was common for announcements, prayers, the Star Spangled Banner, and whatall to be heard at the beginning of each school day culminating in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. I also spent a few years in the private school sector, and I do not recall the Pledge being said then.

Progress, Chuck? It all depends on one's point of view, doesn't it? I would answer 'no', but that's just my opinion. I really hadn't wanted to get into either a political or religious discussion with this post, but Polimom has forced the issue.

I will address her points, one by one.

1) I agree that 'loving God and country are completely different concepts'. The fact that I used both in the same sentence does not mean that I consider them one and the same.

2) Actually, the Pledge was introduced to this country - particularly in the public schools - by educators themselves, in fact, in 1892 ... I mentioned this but did not go on and on about it in my post.

The fact that the United States Congress in 1945 'recognized' the Pledge only shows how asleep and unaware they had been as to what was going on in this country during the 53 years prior! (They were probably too busy running for re-election.)

[You've left another comment on this post. I'll read it after I finish this response.]

What NO one seems to have 'picked up on' is that crass commercialism - the sale of American flags - seems to have been the main reason a pledge was even thought of in the first place! (All part of a well-prepared 'package', and one that I was very tempted to include my indignation over that in my post, but then decided against it.)

3) I agree about the redundancy of 'under God', but I kind of like it. (Of course, you're making the assumption that everyone is able to extrapolate and infer that God is everywhere and in all countries. There are many people who do not want to be that all-inclusive. Or even think that hard, for that matter!)

4) THIS one I'm not going to respond to at all -- your last question, specifically, other than to say that I could probably spend the better part of the rest of my lifetime listing, researching, discussing and even debating all of the ways God and country have been, are, and continue to be coming under attack.

Things have changed in this country - and indeed, throughout the world, particularly in these 'modern' times.

I'll leave those discussions to those who thrive on dissension. I regret having pushed a 'hot button' here, Polimom.

I'll now post this response, and then read your additional comment to see if there's anything else I'd like to add.

Goldenrod said...

My only additional comment is, "Whaat!! Only 10 students in that class?!?"

What say you, Chuck or Tammy (or Ellen or Nancy, for that matter)? Is that just a dream or what??

Polimom said...

Hi Goldenrod --

No hot buttons pushed at all -- no worries. I merely find these types of discussions interesting, and I hope you'll accept my apologies for having responded. I misunderstood the purpose of your post, and in no way meant to provoke, or force an issue.

Re: the photograph. It was shot in 1962, in a one-room schoolhouse.

Also -- out here in Katy, I believe the children do indeed still recite the pledge, at least in the elementary schools. We can hear them every morning, as the principal leads them on the PA.

Tammy said...

You know, Polimom, I've never thought about "how it was viewed by people who's experiences pre-dated it." What a VERY interesting idea! I've been thinking on your comment for a while this afternoon...good food for thought.

Tammy said...

By the way, Polimom: great photos! I especially loved the one of the teacher playing ball during recess and the one with the teacher and her students lined up outside in front of the school house.

Polimom said...

I agree, Tammy, about those images. Some were quite wonderful, imho. Looks as if life was / is quite rugged there, though...


Goldenrod said...

Apology accepted, Polimom. I generally try and avoid debates and/or discussions of this type, and made every attempt to stick with strictly the facts throughout the post, except at the very end, when I included some of my personal thoughts and comments.

Interesting that your daughter's school is still participating in the Pledge. I'm surprised. Pleased, but surprised.

You say you wonder how people might have felt "who's [sic] experiences pre-dated it" (the Pledge).

One of the many things that really irritates me about the media is this seeming constant barrage of "How do you feel about this?" "What is really bad about that for you?" "What do you think should have been done differently?" type questions.

It's not that I'm unconcerned or don't care about how other people feel, I just get sick and tired of this dredging up and fomenting of dissension. Every single newscast is filled with negativism.

I happened to catch the part of an interview with Condoleezza Rice recently that was being conducted in the 'Secretaries of State' room (Is there such a thing?) at the White House. Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner, was our first Secretary of State.

I wonder how he would have felt about an African-American WOMAN, no less, being Secretary of State? Or did he finally finish turning over in his grave and give up the ghost completely with Powell's appointment? Now THAT interview would be provocative!