CENTER FOR EDUCATION IN LAW AND DEMOCRACY
The Pledge of Allegiance: A Teachable Moment
Lesson Ideas
Branches of Government and Public Polic
y
Colorado Law requiring daily recitation of the Pledge passed in May 2003. However, following a temporary Federal Court injunction, this law will be re-considered by legislators during the 2004 legislative session.
Lesson Ideas:

1. The bill requiring daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance passed in both houses (House and Senate). Ask students to find out how their representative and senator voted (Colorado House and Senate votes). Encourage students to analyze the voting pattern in the two houses: Was the vote split along party lines? If so, why would this issue be one on which the parties disagreed? What were the major arguments made for and against the bill?

To find out who your State Representative and State Senators are, go to Vote-Smart.org. On the left hand side of the homepage, enter your 9 digit zip code. (If necessary, follow directions for obtaining 9 digit zip code.)

2. Invite one of your legislators to visit your school during Legislator Back to School Week. Ask your legislator to describe the intent of the law, why he/she voted for or against the bill. Ask your legislator if he/she will consider gathering student ideas for improving the bill. Legislators might also address additional ideas of interest to students.

3. School Policy: While the legislature created the new policy, the executive branch also played its role in the policy development process. Governor Owens signed the bill into law and the Commissioner of Education sent a memo to all school districts explaining the new law and the responsibility of school administrators (note that the development of implementing regulations is an often-neglected part of the policy development process). Based on Federal District Court orders the Colorado Department of Education will send new guidelines for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school districts.

With students, review at least two of the policy statements given here:

Policy Statement from the Colorado Association of School Boards.
School Board Policy Statement, Madison, Wisconsin.
American Center for Law and Justice, Washington, D.C.

Ask students to design a policy for their school that would make it safe and comfortable for students who want to say the Pledge as well as those who do not. Invite the principal to visit your class and discuss the students’ proposed policy’s pros and cons from the viewpoint of a school administrator.

4. Policies of Other States: An overarching question related to this state law is "Should reciting the Pledge be a state mandate?" Challenge students to find out how many other states have similar laws requiring daily recitation of the Pledge. How are these laws from other states similar to and different from Colorado's law? Students can visit the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures for recent "tracking" of this issue. Students can also visit the website of the Education Commission of the States for updates on the Pledge in other states.

5. Policy Issues for Colorado: There are several policy questions that may also interest students:

  • What are the costs and benefits of daily recitation of the Pledge in school?
  • Is a Pledge policy best implemented at the state, school district, or school level?
  • Should schools be involved in developing a Pledge policy?
  • What role should schools fill in developing responsible citizens? Participating citizens?
  • What role should the state government have in promoting responsible citizenship and fostering civic participation?

Students may want to monitor and analyze the legislative process through which the Pledge law will be re-written during the 2004 legislative session. Some classes may choose to present their ideas to the legislators who represent their district in the format of a town meeting or a simulated legislative hearing-- or even testify directly in state legislative hearings.

Project Citizen, a curriculum developed by the Center for Civic Education and sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures can be used to formalize the study of public policy. For more information, contact the Project Citizen Coordinators for your Congressional District to find out about textbooks, training, and professional development opportunities. Colorado Close Up is another resource to support policy studies and legislative visits.