The Pledge of Allegiance is something many homeschool families, start the day off with. It is also something many adults take for granted. We learned it in school as a child and that is that. But, for homeschool children, learning what the Pledge of Allegiance means and where it comes from is important.
History of the Pledge of Allegiance
Did you know that the Pledge of Allegiance we say today was not the original one? There has been four changes to it, most recently in 1954. Francis Bellamy was a Baptist Minister and socialist who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892. In that same year public schools recited it on Columbus Day due to a Presidential Proclamation, the first time the Pledge of Allegiance was said in schools. Congress approved the version to be the Pledge in 1942. However, since then it has been changed four times!
The original Pledge of Allegiance was:
I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
Until 1923 the only change was a small one, the addition of “to”:
I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
After that there was another small change. The word “my” before flag was replaced with “the”. There was also an addition of “of the United States”. This version continued to 1924:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States and to the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
There was another small change that lasted to 1954. The addition of “of America”:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
In 1954 the final change to date was made to the Pledge of Allegiance we recite today. This was the addition of the controversial phrase “under God”. Louis A. Bowman is credited for starting the push to get that phrase added. In 1954, after Congress passed the bill, President Eisenhower signed it into law. This phrase has led to a lot of debate:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Is Saying the Pledge of Allegiance a Good Thing to do?
There are those who feel that reciting the Pledge is a way to show loyalty to the country. It gives a sense of pride in the country. But, there are others who feel that making such a pledge goes against the very principles of democracy the country stands for. They feel that saluting or vowing to a flag or country is not in the spirit of the country’s foundation. There are some who object to the pledge of Allegiance, due to religious reasons. Some feel pledging to a flag is a form of idolatry which goes against many religious tenets. There are some who feel their religion strictly prohibits pledging to any power or being that is not God.
Others take issue specifically with the phrase “under God” in the Pledge. They claim it shows the United States officially endorses religion which is unconstitutional. For those who worship differently, have more than one or no gods in their belief system this has been a problem. Everyone has different beliefs regarding the Pledge.
What does the Pledge of Allegiance mean?
Often the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance is lost on younger children. This is an example of a discussion you may want to have with your homeschool students to make sure they understand what the Pledge of Allegiance means.
A pledge is a promise. So, when you say you pledge something you are promising to do something. You can pledge to be good for your parents, pledge to clean your room, etc.
Allegiance means loyalty. When you are a good friend to someone you are being loyal. You don’t say bad things about them; you are always nice to them.
To the flag
The flag is a symbol of our country. When saying the Pledge of Allegiance you typically face the flag and salute or place your hand over your heart to show how serious you are.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
This means that you promise to be a good friend to your country, the USA. For older home school students you can discuss more in depth what responsibilities citizens of the United States have which may include voting, service to the armed forces, being informed about the state of the country, etc.
And to the republic
A republic is a place where people get to vote and make choices about leaders and what rules everyone should follow. People are free to agree or disagree and it is OK to be different. The United States is this type of place.
For which it stands
The flag of the United States is a symbol for this type of place, our country.
The United States, though it has fifty states, also works together to be stronger.
For those who say this phrase in the Pledge (some don’t) God may mean different things to different people. There are many different people who have different beliefs in our country. This phrase is intended to show that a higher power blesses or looks positively on the type of place the United States is.
Divisible means able to be divided such as when you cut an apple in two. Adding the prefix “in” means “not”. So, indivisible means not able to be divided. This is just like our country. Our country cannot be separated. Our country is strong and cannot be broken up for any reason.
Liberty means freedom. In the United States we are able to make choices and do what we want. We do not have to be like everyone else.
Justice means fairness. The country does its best to ensure everything is fair for all people and nobody is favored over another.
So, the Pledge of Allegiance could be summed up by saying:
The flag is a symbol of our country, the United States of America, which is a place where we can make choices, vote and it is OK to be different. This is a country where a higher power thinks we are a good country (if you believe in a higher power). Our country will always be together and strong because of that. Our country makes sure people are free and people are treated fairly. I promise to be a good and loyal friend to this country – The United States of America.