Loyalty, Oaths, Patriotism & The Forgotten 1919 New York City High School, Anti-Bolshevik (& Everything Else Un-American) Pledge Of Allegiance

Would Having Graduating High School Students Take An Oath Of Allegiance Be Held Unconstitutional Today?

New York City schools in September 1902, "Saluting The Flag" photo: Florence Maynard

New York City school children in a display of patriotism, September 1902, “Saluting The Flag” photo: Florence Maynard

After World War I and the Bolshevik uprising in Russia, declaring your loyalty to America was not taken lightly. In 1919, President of the New York City Board of Education, Anning S. Prall, set a requirement that all graduating New York City High School children recite a pledge of allegiance to the United States before receiving their diplomas. This is quite different than the pledge most Americans know by heart.

Prall’s pledge:

“I will reverence my country’s flag and defend it against enemies at home and abroad.”

“I will respect and obey the President of the United States and the law of the land.”

“I will support, in school and out, American ideals of justice and fair play, including the right of unhampered opportunity under the law for all.”

“I will hold the ideal of rational patriotism above loyalty to any individual, political party, social class or previous national connection.”

“I will actively oppose all revolutionary movements, such as Bolshevism, anarchism, I. W. W.-ism, or any movement antagonistic to the laws of the United States or tending to subvert the Constitution of the United States.”

How long Prall’s allegiance pledge was retained is undocumented. But in 2019, can a student refuse to say a pledge of allegiance in school? Simply the answer is – yes. Yet it is more complicated than that. All but four states (Vermont, Hawaii, Wyoming and Iowa) have laws that either allow or mandate the Pledge of Allegiance be recited during the school day.

The current, familiar Pledge of Allegiance to the United States was first used in New York City in 1892. So it’s a bit ironic that despite the law that New York school children be allotted time to say the pledge daily, few New York City schools actually do so.

The Pledge of Allegiance was originally composed by Francis Bellamy. The words “under God” were inserted in 1954 by a Joint Resolution of Congress amending the Flag Code of 1942.  A previous pledge composed in the 1860s by a Civil War soldier, George T. Balch read, “We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag!”

Compulsory reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance was declared unconstitutional In 1943 by the Supreme Court. The court ruled that  “the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits public schools from forcing students to salute the American flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Forgotten today is that once upon a time civics classes were taught in schools to reinforce patriotism and allegiance.

Also forgotten is the fact that we once instilled a real pride in being an American.

A pride in forgetting one’s former country after emigrating, and assimilating; in wanting to be an American. Not a hyphenated American.

A type of pride that ended up sending more than nine million young men and women, most unhesitatingly, into defending their country in World War II. The greatest generation they were called.

Patriotism and Allegiance

It seems that love of one’s country is considered hokey today. We have become a “love all, respect all and embrace all” tolerate different ideas kind of nation and society. It doesn’t matter if those ideas contribute to the destruction of Rome, shall we say. And if you want to pledge yourself to bring about the destruction of what made this country great, that seems to be fine with the ill-informed masses. These are the sort of pledges our representatives have taken up.

For instance:

We should promote and defend a “religion” that openly states it is diametrically opposed to freedom in every form, independent thought and western civilized ideals? That’s great. And if you are opposed to some of the tenets of this religion we’ll call it a “phobia.” Then if you voice your dissenting “phobic” view it will be labeled hate speech and you will be castigated publicly. You could lose some friends or your job. Luckily, under current American law that’s all that will happen. In regions of the world where this religion is also the law, criticizing or even questioning it, leads to prison, torture or death.

Some would like to forget that this is a sovereign country. We should allow thousands of illegal aliens (not migrants) to cross the border every day and settle here? That is okay too, they’re all political refugees. Why should we bother to have immigration laws anyway? Forget and screw all the immigrants that filed and waited legally to go through the process correctly.

Hide and erase the history of the United States because a small group of vocal opponents are offended by words, pictures and monuments. A certain European National Socialist country led by a guy with a Charlie Chaplin mustache erased the past and substituted it with a new Reich when he was in charge from 1932 -1945. The free press, “decadent” art, opposing viewpoints and citizens bearing of arms were wiped away. That turned out well, right?

Too Far?

In 2017 a few parents of the Peck Slip School in New York City said they were offended by the Pledge of Allegiance being recited after it was reinstated during the school day, as the school had many International students.

Please. You’re here. You don’t want to recite the pledge? Fine. No one is forcing you to. Just don’t say that others can’t recite it.

Certain groups have been seeking and receiving “special rights.” As a nation, aren’t we supposed to be blind towards color, race, religion and all the other things that divide people? You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be part of a “special” class of people with special rights and be equal. We are all supposed to already be inherently equal under the eyes of the law and treated that way.

Hypothetically, can Li, a tall, wealthy, ugly, married, unemployed, foreign born, genderless (yet born male), Buddhist Asian enter the Miss Latino, Mormon, Finance Workers, little-person, Daughters of the American Revolution beauty contest? Why not? So what if Li doesn’t meet the requirements. Why are you discriminating against “they”?

Some might say we’re becoming a nation of unpatriotic wacko whiners on the wrong track.

Robert Goldsmith said true patriotism means four things;

1 — It means reverence for the past traditions of one’s country.

2 — It means devotion to the present institutions of one’s country.

3 — It means loyalty to the future ideals of one’s country;

4 — It means valor to fight, if need be, in defense of these same institutions and ideals.

No pledge of allegiance or oath will bring about the return of the practice of true patriotism by the multitudes. We have partisanism as never before. That partisanism has been brought about by the embracing of diversity. The “div” literally means to divide or separate. That’s where we’re headed, division and divisiveness. Eventually to break apart, unless some brave and bold leader emerges to correct our course to one of national unity.

What would Anning S. Prall say?

5 thoughts on “Loyalty, Oaths, Patriotism & The Forgotten 1919 New York City High School, Anti-Bolshevik (& Everything Else Un-American) Pledge Of Allegiance

  1. Beth S.

    “We should promote and defend a “religion” that openly states it is diametrically opposed to freedom in every form, independent thought and western civilized ideals?” I believe you are hinting at Islam, which is pretty extreme and rather 6th century in its views – but other religions (I can think of some Christian and semi-Christian denominations in particular) that ARE antithetical and diametrically opposed to democratic/western ideals, that favor literal and anti-intellectual dogma over independent thought, and – if they had power over the United States, – would no doubt gleefully rip up the Constitution and curtail many freedoms Americans enjoy. There’s already enough of the Christian far-right in governmental and judicial positions power today, actively curtailing certain freedoms as we speak in the name of “freedom.” (One example: the attempt to force an overturn of Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court by passing horridly draconian laws, rather than using due process). In this regard, far-right, fundamentalist Christianity is *presently* a far bigger threat to the citizens of the United States, just as far-right, fundamentalist Islam is a much bigger threat elsewhere in the world.

    The United States is also free to change its immigration laws – as, yes, it is a sovereign country. But the way they’re “attempting” to fix the issue is beyond inept and needlessly cruel, especially the manner in which asylum requests have been used to detain parents and children perhaps indefinitely. Concerned about anchor babies and DACA kids? Sure, get tougher border policies and Visa restrictions, but couple it with a way for those already here to have a way to become citizens, rather than simply booting them all out to nations they’ve never known. In any case, the whole scare of immigration is touted to be about the law, but couched behind those beliefs is a great deal of fear and racism. It always has been, throughout U.S. history.

    “… We are all supposed to already be inherently equal under the eyes of the law and treated that way.” Ah, a noble goal, which the U.S. is still far from attaining. This is why there have been so many Amendments, and then Amendments to fix the mistakes of older Amendments. The United States has always been a place of freedoms and rights for some, and less (or sometimes none) for others, and from day 1 it’s been an up-and-down process of making America more free and just for more and more people.

    Anyway, more for later, gotta go. We can agree to disagree, of course.

    1. Bert Post author

      Maybe. Your republication of the red blue map underlies the fact that states dominated by cities have a very different political outlook than rural communities. What unifying event might heal the nation would be a tragedy of immense proportions. So no one should hope for that.
      Breaking up the country peacefully is unlikely to happen. Like Ireland vs. Great Britain. The Confederate States of America all over again with a larger land mass? See California trying to split into three separate states. They can’t even do that through the ballot box.

      1. Kevin

        Oh, I don’t really think a split is going to happen. Just wishful thinking on my part.

        However, I’m not so sure anything can ever unite us again. I’ve read so many online comments from people hoping for an earthquake that destroys California — and even another terrorist attack on New York, just so those East Coast liberals are taught a lesson.

        And now Universal Pictures is trying to figure out what to do with “The Hunt”, about progressives hunting “deplorables” for sport — something that likely sounds pretty good to many people. Oh yeah, this is a real united country, alright.

        People keep referring to the US as a “grand experiment”. Has it occurred to anybody that some experiments fail?


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