A conversation with our newest Kindy kiddo last night had me rooting through my closet and dusting off my soapbox. Yesterday, the conversation was about the Pledge of Allegiance and also how he feels he has to say it and has to say it a particular way (re: using "under God"). Which brings me back to my soapbox. Now, what I'm about to say is Very Controversial!™ in many parts:
I don't think the Pledge should be said as a morning ritual in schools. At all.
No, not just standing or sitting quietly while others say it. No, not just omitting the "under God" part. Not saying it at all.
Certainly, as an atheist who has two (thus far) self-declared atheist children, I find the "under God" aspect...irritating....from that perspective. I also find it ridiculous, as a whole, because of the reasons it was put in the pledge to begin with ("Scary commies! Godless commies!"). It was an unnecessary addition made in fear by reactionaries.
But that's really not the entire reason.
Now, I understand that rote memorization of nationalistic sayings from a young age has the chance to help make for good 'n' patriotic future citizens who will be willing to take bullets to protect the country (or otherwise support warfare to protect its interest). Which, from a State perspective, is not unimportant. So it's not surprising that it's a ritual done in schools nationwide, every morning (which is vaguely idolatrous but I digress). Reminds me a bit of the phrase "it's just good business".
However. I entirely disagree with the PoA being a rote exercise for children. The idea of making children swear their allegiance, and therefore themselves, to a country is absurd. Five (six, seven, eight...) year olds don’t know any better and – no matter the country – it is a propagandic form of subtle brainwashing when children are made to pledge themselves to it in a ritual manner.
I know some people will say "hey, I said it every day and I didn't have my brains sucked out of my head". Well, yes. And? If it's no big deal and little more than a national jingle, then it doesn't really mean anything anyway and why not get rid of it? Of course, there are those who utterly freak out about people who merely sit down (or stand quietly) and not recite the pledge. They think those (non) actions are disrespectful. To them, I'd ask, if it's such a big deal that merely standing quietly during it is disrespect, then shouldn't it be something that is said with a little more understanding than school children can give to the meaning behind the words they're saying? I also ask: is it really "patriotic" or "patriotism" if it's children memorizing and reciting because they think they should? That would be no.
There is nothing inherently wrong with pledging your own allegiance to a particular country but one must do so under one’s own free will and from understanding, not rote memorization. There is also nothing inherently wrong with having pride in one’s own country--but that pride should come from the way the country works for its citizens, not because it was ingrained into a person from a very young age to love it.