Every morning, children at schools across the country rise to their feet, face the American flag and recite 23 words written by a man who few students today can name.
There are countless ways American students demonstrate their national pride. But the act believed to be one of the most prominent signs of reverence, one ingrained in minds from a young age, is the Pledge of Allegiance.
It is the familiar one-minute break at the start of either third or fifth period at Coppell High School. With one hand over the heart and gaze fixed on the flag, students verbally express their allegiance to one nation, “under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Texas Education Code requires all students recite both pledges each day unless written consent is given from a parent to recuse them (Texas Education Code § 25.082).
But are these legal requirements really observed in classrooms? Evidently not.
Words meant to be spoken with pride and sincerity are now merely a collection of statements muttered quickly out of obligation or not spoken at all.
“It’s been 12 years I’ve been saying the pledge and I’ve now sort of become desensitized to its purpose,” senior Meryl Xiong said. “It’s not so much that I’m saying the pledge. Rather, I’m repeating words and sounds I’ve practiced for a long time.”
As years of saying the pledge have passed, students in high school environments have developed a heightened awareness of their political surroundings. The perceived questionable historical implications of the flag have also deterred some students from participation.
“The flag’s history isn’t as distinguished as people think,” senior Ifunanya Ibekwe said. “With the amount of violence and racial tension today, not many people feel like they want to pay respect to a place that has yet to respect them.”
While political opinions influence decreasing student participation, the amount of vague, surface level responses received from students when questioned on lack of attention to the pledge, show that many simply don’t care anymore.
Alongside an apparent lack of emotional connection to the flag, some think students have lost an awareness of what it stands for. Coppell High School Forensic Science teacher Sandy Kirkpatrick says many students seem to, “lack an understanding of the sacrifices our armed forces made in order for every student to have the opportunity to a free public education.”
There are many students who continue to break the silence, Coppell High School junior Jamie Jun is one of the student voices who still continues to recite the words of the pledge proudly.
“In third grade, I got to celebrate veteran’s day with my dad, who had served for four years in the Navy,” Jun said. “On that day, although my dad was still there, I was reminded of all the people who weren’t.
“I didn’t give much attention to the pledge before, it was just part of my daily routine. But since that day, for all the people who have served and for all those who are serving right now, I take time to honor and appreciate them.”
Aside from possible decreasing patriotism, or historical ignorance, the silence could be revealing something more. The possibility of a change in how patriotism is displayed has become evident through a growing silence adopted by many students during the pledge.
From a lack of time during class to the monotonous nature of the pledge, for some students – it is not that they lack respect for the flag and their nation, it is simply that they are finding decreasing significance in this particular action.
Whether the decision to not participate is politically fueled, out of a distaste for obligation, or simply out of boredom, there are many reasons for this decline in participation.
Made visible through it, is the possible passing of an age old tradition and changing student body whose means of patriotism, and attitude towards the pledge deviate from that of previous generations.