Civic Literacy Curriculum
Question 66: What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge of Allegiance?
Q66: What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge of Allegiance?
A. The United States and the American flag
B. The President and the Vice President
C. The American flag and the White House
D. The Constitution and federal laws
Flags motivate soldiers, who can see when they have taken an enemy position—as the famous image of Marines raising the flag at Mount Suribachi during the Battle at Iwo Jima attests. But, especially in earlier periods of mass combat, flags have also helped to rally and organize soldiers to stay with their units.
The first black Medal of Honor winner was Sergeant William H. Carney, who received the medal for defending the flag on July 18, 1863 at the second Battle of Fort Wagner. Carney, an escaped slave who had settled in Massachusetts and had first considered a career in Christian ministry, instead joined the now famous 54th Massachusetts company, the all-black unit under the command of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.
The battle did not go well for the Union soldiers, who suffered massive casualties, including Colonel Shaw; Confederate soldiers also shot the unit’s banner bearer. Carney not only prevented the flag’s capture but, even though wounded repeatedly, advanced forward with it before the unit was forced to retreat. Carney delivered the flag back to the rest of his division, famously observing, “Boys, I did but my duty; the dear old flag never touched the ground!”
Few of us make that level of commitment, but the flag is still a specific and unifying force for Americans, standing for the constitutional republic created by our Constitution
“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
As the Supreme Court observed in 1989, “The very purpose of a national flag is to serve as a symbol of our country; it is, one might say, the one visible manifestation of two hundred years of nationhood.” Symbols are important, but what they stand for is what actually matters. In a sense, the pledge is a set of words, and the flag is just a piece of cloth- but in honoring either, we honor what they stand for, which is the principles of the American republic, such as the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.
The American Flag does not “just” represent the country. It represents the men and women who fought not only to create the United States but also defend the ideals that it represents – those contained in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. This activity teaches the students how to properly, and respectfully, fold the American Flag.
- Provide each group with a copy of the directions.
- Provide each group with a double-sided paper copy of the American flag. Make sure that the canton is on the same side on each copy so that, when the paper flag is folded, everything aligns correctly.
- Provide each group with a copy of the Flag Code (optional).
Note: You may wish to replace a paper copy with a flag from the local dollar store. Or, since most flags sold are 3x5 or 2x3 feet, you may want to use fabric remnants cut to size.
Avoid using heavy paper, or bath or beach towels as they will be too bulky to fold.
- Divide the class into groups of two or four.
- Provide each group/pair with a copy of the directions on how to fold a flag.
- Note that after the directions, three scripts are provided. These scripts can be recited during the flag folding ceremony. Encourage the groups to choose a script to recite while they practice.
- Explain that they are going to learn the proper way to fold the American flag.
- Once the students have practiced using their paper flags, allow them to practice using the classroom flag.
- Remind them that the flag should never touch the ground as this is interpreted as a sign of disrespect. Guidelines for handling the flag can be found in the U.S. Flag Code, specifically sections 8 and 9.
- At the end of the activity, facilitate a class discussion, allowing the students to lead with the questions and comments/observations regarding the symbolism of the folds, why the scripts differ, and why folding the flag a specific way matters.
Below are two discussion prompts that can be used by teachers in a classroom setting.
- The first discussion prompt will be one that is designed to support students that are not really understanding the content in a way that would help them to answer the test question.
- The second discussion prompt will be one that is designed to further student understanding of the content by making real-world connections, including connections to current events and historical events.
The Pledge of Allegiance is just one way for people to show their loyalty to the flag and to the nation. People take a variety of actions to help them demonstrate their support for the ideas represented in the Constitution of the United States.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy and published in the Youth’s Companion. In 1923, the U.S. adopted the Pledge, and it has been a staple in schools and other events ever since. What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge of Allegiance? How do we show respect while saying the Pledge?
There are people who say that we should not pressure anyone to say the Pledge of Allegiance because doing so violates a number of freedoms -- speech, conscience, and religion, to name a few. Others make the case that every American should be encouraged to make this pledge to their country as part of their civic duty. With which side do you agree? Use current and past events to support your answer.