Every morning, students in the Oyster River School District are greeted with directions to stand and pledge allegiance to our country. However, some students have found flaws to this national pledge and have chosen instead to remain seated.
Being back in school, students have started to now argue over whether or not you should stand for our nation’s pledge. Many believe that the wording of this old fashioned pledge is outdated or certain parts don’t apply to our country and the current status of how we are living in 2021. However, a large group of students also believe that not standing shows disrespect to our country as well as people who fought for freedom in our country. With a recent increase in opposite opinions in both our school and country, it’s no wonder so many people have become divided over this issue. Some believe it’s just to stand, some believe it’s wrong to stand, and some are staying neutral.
While it is more common now for people to choose to sit for the pledge if they want to, in 2019, Riley Brown, former Oyster River student who graduated in 2021, chose to sit for the pledge even when it was not commonly done. In an article Brown wrote in 2019 for Mouth of the River, titled: Now Please Stand for the Pledge, he discusses not only the opinions of students and Suzanne Fillipone, former principal, but also his own opinion on the issue. Brown touches on many different aspects on why he does not stand for the pledge, but also the hope that one day he would stand for the pledge. He says in his article, “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against the United States. I just hope to see a change large enough to make me want to pledge allegiance to my country every morning, and I don’t think that change has happened yet.”
To see what current students had to say, the range of arguments had to be addressed. A poll was run on my personal Instagram account for the students of Oyster River to get their opinion. In the poll asking students whether they make the personal choice to stand, 71% of students (108 people) responded yes, they chose to stand, and 29% (44 people) responded no, they chose not to stand. Students also have the choice to follow up on the answer they chose in the poll, diving into a wider range of background on the option they selected.
Most of the students who believed that the pledge should be stood for explained that people should be grateful for the state of our country and where we live. Audrey Sigmon (‘23) goes into detail saying, “we are fortunate to be living in a stable country. There still are some problems but like it or not, people need to realize the luck we have to live here.”
Grace Keslar (‘23) agrees with this. She says she stands for the pledge “to show respect for my country and everyone who’s giving something for this country.” People who stand for the pledge want to show respect to the country and the good done in the country. However, this can range for many people.
Many people believe that showing respect towards our country is important because they believe it can help them be agents of change. Kylie Dulac (‘25) wants to show respect, but does it in her own way. She expresses this by saying, “I stand for the pledge to respect those who fought for our flag, but don’t put my hand over my heart because this country is not filled with justice and liberty for all.”
Similar points are made by an anonymous source who has the same outlooks as Dulac. They talk about their opinions of the pledge saying, “I’m part of a military family. Yes, there’s bad things about the country, but to move forward, we need to acknowledge the good. People have died to give us the right to protest. I think we should be thankful for that while also making a change. Standing for the flag doesn’t mean that we don’t support equality. This is a stereotype.”
Looking at students who sit for the pledge, many people choose to sit for the pledge to encourage the idea that the pledge is outdated and has flawed parts that no longer should apply to a pledge people make to their country. One of these outdated sections is the religious aspect in the pledge which students no longer believe has relevance. Kim Gowell (‘22) believes that the idea of forcing religion in school should no longer occur. Gowell explains, “I don’t believe in forcing religious based pledges on anyone. One nation under god, yet we are not all under god.”
Many people believe as well that we do not see liberty and justice for all. Alessia Garafalo (22’) talks about her experience with not standing for the pledge saying, “I feel like standing for it [the pledge] means you support this country and everything it does and I don’t.”
To some, the idea of a unison pledge also feels somewhat cultish. Katherine McEwan (‘23) says that the way we go about standing for the pledge “reminds me of photos we see of kids during the Nazi regime saluting Hitler.” A dark twist on a national school “tradition.”
The pledge as well is not only used in schools, it is also used when receiving a green card in the United States. Oyster River has a diverse range of students who have not lived in the United States for their whole lives, and as such, have different outlooks on what a pledge to a country that may not have always been their home means to them. Dalva Cheney (‘23) is originally from Mexico. She expresses feeling odd standing for the pledge saying, “I did not grow up in the U.S., so I do not feel the need to [stand for the pledge].”
However, another student who also did not grow up in the United States, Rachel Rowley (‘22) sees this differently. Rowley has lived in the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and Australia before her family moved to New Hampshire. She stands for the pledge because she is grateful for living in the US. She says, “[it’s] a privilege I’m grateful for. In a way, I stand to represent my vow to always respect America and my work to help this country prosper.”
With standing for the pledge, many students feel as if they can’t express how they feel by standing or not because of fear of judgment. Rather than people doing what they actually believe in and others accepting that’s their individual opinion, people do something that does not make them happy to prevent upsetting others. Holden Bell (‘23) does not think standing for the pledge is for him, but does not want to face what people say. He goes into detail saying, “To be honest I wouldn’t [stand for the pledge] but it’s not worth all the people looking at you weird.”
While it feels like this year has been the major turning point for people sitting for the pledge, this has actually been a growing trend that teachers have caught on to. Matthew Pappas, a Social Studies teacher, has noticed the growing trend of people sitting for the pledge started to rise in popularity about 2 years ago. He goes into detail as well, talking about why we even have a pledge. He says the pledge started in schools, “during the Cold War, probably in the 1950s, just to make sure that patriotism was alive and well.”
When making the choice to sit or stand, students do it with intent. Some believe that the pledge should be removed from the morning routine of our school, that the outdated words and the meaning no longer have relevance in our society. Seeing the pledge go however would upset lots of students who wish to respect their country. As of right now, making an intense choice on what to do would upset either group, meaning all that can be done is watching how this country changes as well as the personal beliefs of others.
Artwork by Gaby Lowery