When North Shore students head back to the classroom in just a few weeks, they'll start each day with the Pledge of Allegiance — a tradition that goes back generations.
In Wisconsin, as is the case with most states, classrooms in public schools are required to offer the pledge or the National Anthem daily, but students are not required to actually stand up and recite it. Most do, of course, but some students object to the phrase "Under God" and refuse to take part in the daily routine.
Students are required to say the pledge, but should they be? Patch posed the question to users over the last few days and received a flurry of feedback.
“No, absolutely not,” Bonnie Fernandes wrote on the Fox Point-Bayside Patch Facebook page. “How can it be a pledge if it is required? A pledge is a promise, and a promise you make under coercion is not real.”
“No. Both my parent's were atheist and back in the 1970s we had to say the pledge. It always made me uncomfortable to say 'Under God' so I wouldn't say it,” Elizabeth Muslin posted on the Shorewood Patch Facebook page. “I would hate to think there were children now, in 2013, who have to go through that. Separation of church and state means exactly that--separation.”
The issue has surfaced nationally. Earlier this year, a state lawmaker in Arizona introduced a bill to require students to recite the pledge. Other states, including Oregon and Nebraska, have had discussions on whether to require the pledge to be recited in schools.
For three decades, the pledge read as it does today, without the controversial phrase, “Under God.” But in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower pushed for Congress to add the phrase to combat communist threats, leaving Americans with the 31-words we have today:
"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."
So, should students be required to recite it?
“No. I actually find it uncomfortable and offensive to religious freedom in America. ‘Under God" was added in 1954, and at the behest of some activists I'm guessing many of us would not appreciate today,” Brad Lichtenstein.
He also wrote on the Shorewood Patch Facebook page. “Without the God part, its a nice appreciation of country, (thus) recitation of pledges by millions of school kids does strike me as a bit like the old Soviet films.”
And others also feel a strong sense of patriotism, but question if blindly citing words without proper understanding is doing any good.
“If you could provide (information) that saying the pledge of allegiance increases one's loyalty and nationalism, then ‘yes.’ Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case,” Mark Small posted on Whitefish Bay Patch. “Maybe more specifically and directly, have the students volunteer where there is need and invest in their community would yield a greater commitment to their community and their personal well-being. It appears that most students recite the pledge with little awareness of what they are actual saying and meaning.”
“I don't know that it has to be done everyday in every grade. Saying it does not do much if you don't fully understand its meaning,” Greg posted on Fox Point-Bayside Patch. “I think it should be learned and at the ready for use by all citizens. Also, as much time as possible should be reserved for prayer.”
“Only the discussion of abortion gets more emotive attention; but the role of religion in our schools and classrooms has been a sure fire prescription for heated conflict,” Ruble wrote.And those comments ran the same lines we see eight months later – strong patriotism as well as a desire for separation of church and state.
“But where does it end? There are so many religions and denominations At what point does the gov. say, "Enough - there aren't enough hours in the day or room in the yard for all of this," FreeThoughtTroy wrote.
"Let's all pretend that religion does not exist, that is the way to educate our children about tolerance," Patch reader, Greg, commented. "I could walk into any school and find or hear 10 things that I could say offend me. It is time to tell the eternally offended to get bent. Grow up, suck it up and be a good example."
"We cannot deny our heritage that this country was founded by people who mostly believe in a God --- although many Christians are wrong to think that it was founded as a Christian society, as most of the Founders seem to have been Deists. God is a generic word -- and it can have many meanings. The only people who can object to even this generic term would be Atheists, who insist there is No God, in any way, shape or form..." reader David Tatarowicz posted.