Autonomy or allegiance: what does the Pledge mean to OHS?


Anna Peternell

A flag at the front of classroom 904. Though a flag is displayed in the morning announcements, most classrooms have a physical flag as well.

The Pledge of Allegiance is a public-school tradition. Some students have stood their whole life– some students’ first experience with the Pledge was Freshman year. What makes a student sit or stand during the 15-second segment?

A federal law from the 1940’s requires Washington state schools to allot class time for the Pledge of Allegiance. Discourse began to take place among students and teachers regarding the Pledge and the significance of reciting it.

Robert Bach, Olympia High School’s Dean of Students, comments on Pledge participation on a school-to-school basis. “I’ve worked at three different high schools. One of the schools had no Pledge at all. At the other, almost everyone stood.” On Oly’s classroom-to-classroom Pledge participation, Bach estimates“[At OHS…] less than half of students typically stand for the Pledge.”

Olympia High School hasn’t always provided time for students to stand for the Pledge each day. “We used to say it only on Mondays,” says Steve Roth, a teacher who has been at OHS for 26 years. He believes that part of the decline in Pledge participation is due to its repetition. “Sometimes, when it’s a habit…it loses its meaning.”

Many students choose to abstain from standing and repeating the Pledge because they disagree with what it means, stands for, or who it does– or doesn’t– represent. However, this meaning is different from student to student. 

Caden Durocher, a freshman at OHS, discusses how for him, the Pledge is not about blind acceptance, but hope. “I recite the pledge… not necessarily because of what America has done in the past… but because of the American ideal, and what I hope it can do in the future,” affirms Durocher.

For some students, the Pledge is built into the classroom curriculum, while others rarely hear it talked about. Regarding discussions about the Pledge in the classroom, Durocher says, “We seem to just ignore it.”

On the contrasting opinions regarding the Pledge of Allegiance, Bach highlighted the Pledge’s meaning to the individual. “It’s really in the eye of the beholder when it comes to it,” he said. 

While discussing his personal thoughts when reciting the pledge, Bach stated that he regarded it as a time for reflection. “As I say it, I’m looking at the flag. I’m using this as a moment to take pause, to celebrate a sense of patriotism that fully understands both the inadequacies and greatnesses of our nation.”