CENTER FOR EDUCATION IN LAW AND DEMOCRACY
The Pledge of Allegiance: A Teachable Moment
Lesson Ideas
History and Meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance
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.

Useful Web Resources:
History of the Pledge, by Dr. John W. Baer
Strange Origin of the Pledge, American Civil Liberties Union
Home of Heroes Web Site

Lesson Ideas:

1. When students say the Pledge of Allegiance do they say the right words and do they understand the words they are saying? Find out by asking them to write the words to the Pledge, explain what they mean and compare their understanding with the explanation provided at the web sites above.

2. Read the different versions of the history of the Pledge provided at the websites above. Talk with your parents about what you have learned and ask them what they remember about reciting the pledge.

3. Analyzing the Pledge, a lesson developed by the Center for Civic Education, is a critical thinking exercise from introduction of the We the People...The Citizen and the Constitution High School Text.

4. Related Literature:

The Children’s Story, by James Clavell (1963, reissued in 1989 by Dell). Clavell wrote this story at the height of the Cold War, when his young daughter came home from school able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance (and demanding a dime for her efforts) but not explain what it meant. In the story, the New Teacher from a conquering nation charms a class of children into forsaking the Pledge and cutting up their classroom flag because they do not understand the importance of these symbols.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, by Bette Bao Lord (1984, Harper Collins). Based on the author’s own experiences as an immigrant from China, this book tells the story of Shirley Temple Wong’s efforts to become American. Especially relevant is her hilarious rendition of the Pledge of English, which her emerging English has not yet allowed her to make sense of.

Nothing but the Truth, by Avi (1991, Orchard). Through such documents as school memos, letters, diaries, transcripts of phone calls and newspaper clippings, the reader must decide what the truth is when ninth-grader Philip Malloy is suspended for humming during the playing of the national anthem. His case becomes a First Amendment issue, even though his reasons for not standing silently and respectfully are far from pure.

I Pledge Allegiance, by Bill Martin, Jr. and Michael Sampson, illustrated by Chris Raschka (2002). This picture book provides background on the Pledge and explains the meaning of each phrase in kid-friendly language. A useful introduction for primary-age students.