Note: This essay was composed for the purpose of being a written response to a teacher who has forced another student in my class to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
It is a mistake for teachers to think that they can discipline people into displays of patriotism. Especially illegal, and unwise, is to force people to say the pledge of allegiance. The Supreme Court is not undecided on that, making a rather clear ruling, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.
If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us. We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.
Saying that somehow patriotism can be instilled by blindly reciting words is rather fallacious. “To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds” (Bernette).
Furthermore, the question of whether patriotism should be instilled is open to debate. Ambrose Bierce has this to say on this subject:
“PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.”
And fear of nationalism is not the only reason to not say the pledge. Some believe the pledge should be restored to the original form, the one that was official when Americans fought in World War 2, and only changed during the time of the Red Scare.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."