Pledge of Allegiance in School

Instructor: Andrew Diamond

Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.

In this lesson, we'll cover the origin of the Pledge of Allegiance and what makes it controversial as a requirement in public schools. We'll also expose the secret motivation behind the original writing of the pledge. A short quiz follows the lesson.

The Pledge of Allegiance

'I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under - wait!' Whoa! We're getting ahead of ourselves.

If you're like me, and I assume you are because you're devilishly handsome, you probably had to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school at least once, if not daily. Again, if you're like me, and I assume you are because you smell fantastic, you always wondered why you had to recite it and what the deal was with the whole controversy. Well, hopefully we'll clear some of that up, you can learn a little something, and then you can go back to being the beautiful, fragrant creature you are.


In 1892, a Baptist minister by the name of Francis Bellamy wrote the original Pledge for a children's magazine called The Youth's Companion. The original iteration was conceived as part of the celebration around the 400th anniversary of Columbus arriving in the new world. Designed as a way to support American nationalism, the Pledge also had a more capitalistic goal: to sell flags and subscriptions of The Youth's Companion to every schoolhouse in America. The original version was short and to the point, stating: 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'

Children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance

The pledge was first modified in 1923 due to the continuing influx of new immigrants into the United States. At what I'm sure was a delightful event called the National Flag Conference it was agreed that the statement 'my Flag' should be changed to specifically state 'the Flag of the United States'. This group of flag enthusiasts feared that new immigrants to the country would consider it a pledge to their own homelands, so they needed to be specific. Later, in the beginning of World War II the stance for the pledge was modified to include only the right hand over the heart, omitting the previously customary left hand extended, palm down. It was determined - and rightly so - that this far too closely resembled the Nazi salute.

The biggest, and by far most controversial, change came in 1954 with the addition of 'under God.' This came about due to the actions of a man by the name of Louis Bowman, a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, who argued it should be included because of Abraham Lincoln's usage of the phrase in the Gettysburg Address. In the 1950s, America was in the first terrifying throes of the Cold War with Communists and were trying desperately to distinguish themselves from them in any manner. As Bowman, the Sons of the American Revolution, and other groups, such as the Knights of Columbus, continued to add the phrase 'under God' to the Pledge whenever they got the chance, it took a coincidence of President Eisenhower being in attendance at a sermon on Lincoln's birthday to get the final push. Eisenhower, hearing the new pledge and seeking to differentiate America from the godless Communists, advocated for its official addition. In 1954, Congress passed a joint resolution formally enacting the change.

The Pledge, as it stands now, is as follows:

'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.'


Since the 1940s there have been challenges to the mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. The first cases came from Jehovah's Witnesses who considered it idolatry to salute the Flag. Later challenges came throughout the 20th century and court rulings determined students didn't have to stand for the Pledge and didn't have to actually say the words.

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