Standing Up for the Pledge of Allegiance


A recent incident at Wakefield High School in Massachusetts illustrates just how much our country has changed in just one generation – and not for the better.
Veterans Day is Nov. 11, 2009
A few weeks ago, a substitute teacher at Wakefield High School, who is also the father of a soldier who gave his life in Iraq, reprimanded a student who allegedly made a sarcastic statement about having to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher, Joseph Bellavia, is himself a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel.

Bellavia says that he reminded the student that her right not to stand during the Pledge was purchased through the sacrifices of soldiers like himself and his late son.

He says that as a result of the incident he was summoned to a meeting with the principal where he was told that his services as a substitute teacher would no longer be needed at Wakefield High School.

But that is a separate issue that is between Bellavia and the school administration. I would like to address a larger issue.

For me the most troubling aspect of this case arises from an observation by Bellavia regarding what typically happens at WHS during the Pledge of Allegiance.

“Although the students stand,” Bellavia told a local newspaper, “very few, if any, recite it.”

Why not? Is it because they were never taught it and don’t know the words? Or do they reject the values that it espouses? Either way, it’s a poor reflection on where we are as a nation.

When I was a student in Wakefield schools, everyone stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance – it wasn’t “optional.” And this was way back in the 1960’s – not exactly the most buttoned-down and regimented period in our history.

But back then, most of our teachers were from the Greatest Generation, proud Americans who lived through the Great Depression and saved the world from tyranny during World War II. They passed that pride and respect for the United States on to their students. But those days are gone. In many quarters today, American pride seems to have been replaced by a “blame America first” mentality.
Soldier salutes flag
Last year, I interviewed one of my 8th grade teachers – 94 year-old Russell Nelson. Mr. Nelson was a veteran of World War II who served in a US Army amphibious tank unit that played a key role in the Pacific Theater of the war. Mr. Nelson was no right-winger – far from it. But he was proud of his service to his country, and like most teachers of his generation, he would no more have put up with a student’s refusal to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance than Mr. Bellavia did.

Back in the Olden Days, school text books taught that America was a great country – not perfect, but more a force for good in the world than ill. Nowadays, I’m not sure that message is part of most students’ educations. I wonder how much today’s educators and students even know about the history of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Perhaps if they realized that its original author, Francis Bellamy, was a socialist, they might find it more palatable.

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23 Responses to “Standing Up for the Pledge of Allegiance”

  1. 1 BigWillie

    Liberals are the reason behind this……a sad group they are!

    • 2 sweets

      all i know is that i DONT have to stand up to some AMERICAN flag you americans broke so many treaties with my people and we’d like to be called native-indians no way am i american. You americans only care about yourselves if anyone else and you’ll get enough our land better be restored my people arent dumb. EEEEEWWWWW TO AMERICANS

      • 3 maggie jones

        Get over it that was over 100 years ago. Don’t like it , leave we won’t miss you

  2. 4 Daniel Lieber

    This posting implies the student made the remark about constitutional rights in a sarcastic or inappropriate manner and further implies that she did not stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. These allegations are patently untrue.

    Here are relevant facts as disclosed by the Wakefield School Department and are consistent with Mr. Bellavia’s statement:

    The student did stand and did say the Pledge of Allegiance. After the 10-minute homeroom class was seated, she made a statement to the friend sitting next to her about learning in social studies that students have a constitutional right not to stand. This was a sensitive subject for the substitute teacher and he acted very inappropriately in response. Fortunately there was a full-time teacher in the classroom who witnessed the event first-hand and called the principal immediately.

    The student did not do anything wrong. Stating or implying otherwise is a disservice to the student, teacher, and community.

  3. 5 Mark Sardella

    There is nothing untrue or “implied” about the incident in my post. At the time, Mr. Bellavia interpreted the comment as a sarcastic statement, which is why I wrote “allegedly.” But, as I thought I made clear in my post, the incident itself “is between Bellavia and the school administration.” My post, as I thought I made clear, was really about what happens in schools during the Pledge of Allegiance based on Mr Bellavia’s comment that “athought the students stand, very few, if any, recite it.”

    I went to some pains to make clear that that was the main topic of my post, not the incident itself between Mr. Bellavia and the student, which unfortunately has become a “he said/she said” disagreement. I’m going to assume that you do not dispute Mr. Bellavia’s assertion that most students don’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance, since you did not address that point in your comment even though it was the main point of my post.

    I don’t believe that is a phenomenon that is unique to Wakefield (students not reciting the Pledge). As I indicated, I see that as result of a public school education that no longer emphasizes American greatness or the positive role of the United States in the world.

  4. 6 Jeannie

    Well, quite frankly, I don’t blame her. Let’s face it, the U.S. is not the peace-loving country it proclaims to be. Sadly, the U.S. was at one time a beacon for human rights, but not any more! Two unnecessary wars that have killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of people, not to mention our highest elected officials condoning and implementing torture! The worst part of the story is the fact that people continue to turn a blind eye to what amounts to be the U.S.’s state-sponsored terrorism being inflicted on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan on a daily basis, and then get mad at people who don’t support the madness! Let’s hope that guy never gets another teaching job again!

    • 7 Mark Sardella

      So you would deny this man employment because you disagree with his politics? That doesn’t seem very tolerant.

  5. 8 HampsteadGrandpa

    Massachusetts General Law (Chapter 71, Section 69) is very clear about the display of national flags in the classroom, the pledge of allegiance, and the penalty for violations. The pledge is to be recited every day, with the teacher leading the class in recitation. One of the exquisite ironies of our truly free country is the individual’s right to keep silent when the pledge is recited (along with the right to burn the flag in protest); however, the teacher in charge has a responsibility to insist that students stand during the pledge, whether or not they choose to partake – and if they choose to not partake, they are expected to remain silent. If the student did stand and did, indeed, recite, then the issue is around her comments to a classmate afterwards, which Mr. Bellavia heard and responded to – naturally, given his very special circumstances, if not – ??? – appropriately. This is a high school? And yet, the student couldn’t abide hearing a point of view other than her own? Mr. Bellavia was inappropriate how? Was he belligerent? Was he threatening? No report I’ve read or heard suggests he was. Was he counseled on expectations when he began working as a substitute teacher in the Wakefield Public Schools? You know – something along the lines of “we appreciate your sacrifices, but they are not to be discussed here?” Being a tick toward progressive, I can’t believe I have to ask – what are the politics of the principal? The superintendent? Does having a veteran on staff bother them? For all intents and purposes, it appears the only disservice has been done to the one who served.

  6. 9 jack

    Well I wonder what he said and how? Supposedly a full time teacher ( not that that means he’she is right) reported the incident. One has to wonder if there was ever any other problems with this teacher? I am not saying he deserved being fired, just saying people are over-reacting.

  7. 10 jack

    Hampstead, Why would having a vet. on staff bother them? To think the school system fired him because he is a vet is nuts. Beside the principal did not fire him the school system did ie super or school board. AND was not Mr. Bellavia suppose to LISTEN to her point of view too?

  8. 11 Nora

    When I was a student at WHS, I did not recite the pledge of allegiance with the rest of my class. My reasons for doing this were twofold: First, I practiced a religion that discourages the swearing of oaths, and secondly, I felt that reciting an oath of loyalty to the government was an inappropriate way to begin the day’s education.

    Was I a teenage know-it-all who valued her own opinion a little too well? Probably. But, as I used to explain to the kid behind me who routinely called me a lousy commie b!@#, it’s as much of a tribute to our great nation that I wasn’t compelled to recite the pledge as it would have been for me to stand and recite it halfheartedly with the rest of our class. My refusal to participate in the pledge was not a reflection of my laziness or the sacrifices made by those in service, but rather an impassioned engagement with the ideals that they fought and died for.

    Teenagers can be kind of a Rorschach test, embodying the fears we have about the future and reflecting what we see as the worst of the world. But it’s important to remember that many teens are alert and curious, acting on their ideals and doing their best to determine who they are, what they believe in, and what is the best course of action is for their lives.

  9. 12 chris

    “Bellavia says that he reminded the student that her right not to stand during the Pledge was purchased through the sacrifices of soldiers like himself and his late son”

    I would like to remind Mr Bellavia and Mr Sardella, that the right of a student not to stand for the pledge was not, and shall not ever be, determined by the sacrifices of the military. Individual choice is the staple of democracy and does not require a standing military to ensure that persons right of free speech. “A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither.” Thomas Jefferson.

    • 13 Mark Sardella

      I suppose then, Chris, you believe that if the United States, Britain and Russia had laid down their arms and chosen not to resist the advance of Hitler’s armies in the 1940s, that the Nazis and Fascists would have honored such things as freedom of speech in the nations they conquered?

      • 14 chris

        Not sure where you are gathering your assumptions from. I was inquiring about why you and Mr Bellavia seem to think that ” Rights” are secured and protected by the military. It is my contention that certain rights are not given but rather fought for through social struggle. The student had a right not to stand, not because her teacher and teacher’s son had fought in armed conflict for that right, instead her right not to stand is protected by the first amendment. Were civil rights granted in the 60’s by soldiers fighting in Vietnam, or were they granted by massive protests by the people who demanded those rights?

  10. 15 Mark Sardella

    My “assumption” is based on your previous statement that it “does not require a standing military to ensure that persons right of free speech.” I asked you whether you thought that the right to free speech – as a practical, not a philosophical matter – would have been guaranteed by the victorious forces of Fascism had the Allies not resisisted them by military force in the 1940s. I maintain that the Allied military forces preserved rights and freedoms that would have disappeared had the forces of Fascism not been defeated militarily.

    You avoided answering my question.

  11. 16 chris

    If you are asking my personal opinion on whether or not the Fascists would have guaranteed freedom of speech then obviously the answer is no. Are you saying that because of the allied entrance into the war they secured our freedom to free speech? Your question is irrelevant to my original posting. How is it that Mr Bellavia and his son’s sacrifices made it possible for that student to refuse to stand for the pledge? It seems to me that the whole idea of an allegiance to ones country is something totalitarian in its nature, is it not?

  12. 17 Mark Sardella

    It is not. I fail to see how pledging one’s allegiance to a liberal democracy that guarantees a wide range of individual freedoms is in any way “totalitarian.”

    I’m glad that you agree that the Allied military forces in World War II prevented the totalitarian forces of Nazism and Fascism from eliminating the freedoms guaranteed by the European and American democratic nations. So freedoms, like speech, can be protected, preserved and guaranteed by the armed forces of just democratic nations like the US.

    I believe I said that “her right not to stand during the Pledge was purchased through the sacrifices of soldiers like [Mr. Bellavia] and his late son.” Would you concede that the men who prevented the a Nazi takeover of the world in the 1940s “were soldiers like [Mr. Bellavia] and his late son?”

  13. 18 chris

    The key words in your statement are “Can Be Protected.” Yes I could say that the sacrifices of the military made it possible for me to eat capt crunch this morning and of coarse that could be argued under your reasoning as true. With your reasoning I could say that if the Allied army did not defeat the Axis powers Adolf Hitler might have become the chancellor of Burger King. It has no meaning when refering to a students right not to stand for an allegiance.

    “I fail to see how pledging one’s allegiance to a liberal democracy that guarantees a wide range of individual freedoms is in any way “totalitarian.”

    Would you stand by that statement in 1964? Was there really liberty and justice for all? Perhaps, if you happened to be wealthy or white. Was there really liberty and justice for all during the great depression, or during the women’s suffrage movement? I don’t think so. The pledge of allegiance is nothing more then an extremely hypocritical oath, intended to indoctrinate all who say it.

    • 19 Mark Sardella

      And yet somehow, despite over a century of Americans reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the US has managed to remain a free society – not a perfect one, to be sure – but one that, through the power of freedom and democracy, has managed to correct many of its flaws, moving steadily in the direction of the Pledge’s promise of “liberty and justice for all.” I see no problem with “indoctrinating” those principals. And in 2008, we elected an African-American President.

      I’ll pledge allegiance to a country like that any time.

  14. The Pledge of Allegiance (1892) was the origin of Nazi salutes and Nazi behavior in the USA, adopted later by the National Socialist German Workers Party. See the discoveries of the historian Dr. Rex Curry. See the shocking old photos and videos of American children doing the nazi salute as part of forced robotic chanting daily on command in government schools (socialist schools). The gesture resulted because Francis Bellamy’s initial gesture was a military salute that was then extended outward to point at the flag. Bellamy was a self-proclaimed national socialists, as was his cousin Edward Bellamy, and they influenced German national socialists, their dogma, rituals (robotic chanting in unison on command with Nazi salutes) and symbols (swastikas used as crossed S-letters for socialism). The pledge is used to brainwash worship of government/socialism as god, supreme or as god-imposed. If the schools taught the truth about the pledge or showed the photos and videos, then no one would perform it. Remove the pledge from the flag. Remove the flags from schools. Remove schools from government. End the USA’s police state.

    • 21 Mark Sardella

      Since you believe, contary to historical fact, that the USA is a “police state,” I doubt that there is any point in discussing with you the fact that in 100+ years of recitation, the Pledge has failed miserably to turn the US into a totalitarian nation.

      • It is not just the Pledge of Allegiance. It is the government schools (socialist schools). That is why the post states: Remove the pledge from the flag. Remove the flags from schools. Remove schools from government.

      • 23 John

        Wow you guys can get way out there… The simple fact is that she got chewed out and most likely humiliated by an adult, who should have known how to comport himself. Not over react to an unimportant and simple statement of a fact. The whole business is absurd.

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