Is The Pledge of Allegiance brain-washing? Hi, I'm new at college this year and last week our sociology professor showed us old films of communist children and Nazi children at rallies saluting and marching. She got us to talk about how these children were indoctrinated into their beliefs. We all agreed it was political brainwashing and forced children to conform to strict social beliefs and how wrong it was. However, she then showed us children taking the Pledge of Allegiance and singing The Star Spangled Banner and she said it was the same as the communist's brainwashing? I have to write my homework on children taking The Pledge of Allegiance as social control. She was going on about something called The Bellamy Salute, saying American kids used to do nazi salutes to the flag. My parents told me that some people at the university are not trustable. Is she a subversive? How can I write my homework so that it isn't brainwashing for little kids to take the pledge in school?

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As previous responses demonstrate, there are different ways of looking at this issue. 

From psychology point of view, brainwashing is often defined as a type of manipulation that alters one's thoughts and identity that the person would not choose on their own.

Let's talk about identity. The Pledge of Allegiance like all national pledges and anthems, encourages a national identity, something which is required in order to uphold the concept of a nation state. If people in a society did not share a common identity of belonging to and feeling allegiance to a country/government, the entire nation state would fall apart. But that doesn't mean that we are brainwashed into doing it, especially if we have actively taken part and contributed to the establishment and ideologies of that government. As long as we understand and choose to be a part of that system and choose to uphold that identity, it is not brainwashing. Brainwashing involves manipulation and coercion, now how we define that is another topic for discussion.

I would highly recommend to you to read George Orwell's 1984 which really is a great example of what a totalitarian system of brainwashing looks like. This book, which was actually published in 1949, has become a bestseller again. Many readers in Europe and N. America are making comparisons to the system described in this book to the system we live in now. Just some food for thought.

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Brainwashing and Patriotism have two very different definitions. Having said that, after reading the previous posts I noticed that the 'history' of The Pledge of Allegiance has not yet been addressed with regard to its creation, mindset, or current reality.

The Pledge of Allegiance 1892 originally written by members of The Knights of Columbus to express their gratitude towards their new country. (An Italian-American organization)

The Pledge of Allegiance 1924 was amended to clarify which nation the allegiance was held.

The Pledge of Allegiance 1954 was amended to clarify their source of rights.

What I find most interesting regarding this topic is the fact that the United States is the only nation on the planet that has had to address this sort of issue. Why is that? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that with the exception of one year in U.S. history more people came to this country from other places than left. Let's face it folks if that is the case what is so wrong with 'The Pledge of Allegiance'? Is it so awful for an individual who comes here, makes a better for themself and their family to affirm their allegiance to the nation that embraced them obviously more than their birth nation? This issue has reached the Supreme Court, primarily due to the 'under God' statement in the pledge, not for brainwashing the citizens. That's the beauty of our system, there are many places in the world that would never tolerate such vocal protest..  If one comes to this country to benefit from our social, political, and economic systems, while at the same time are never forced to relinquish their heritage I think at the very least The Pledge of Allegiance is a 'fair' compromise.

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Well I think it is perfectly normal for a school to promote patriotism if one of our standards is citizenship in Social Studies education, but I think schools should make it an option for students to participate in the Pledge.

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Jehovah's Witnesses would completely agree with posts 5 and 8, but for entirely different reasons. In their system of beliefs, actions such as saluting a flag, saying the pledge, or honoring one's country in a visible show of support is equivalent to idol worship.

The question is then begged, are you bowing down to the golden calf by demonstrating respect for the country that has provided you with the freedom not to? Some would say yes, and respectfully, I would disagree. Just as honoring one's country is not idol worship, however, it equally is not submission to brainwashing. At all times, you have the right NOT to salute the flag, say the pledge, sing the Star-Spangled Banner, or otherwise react to our country's symbols in a patriotic fashion. It's called freedom.

Having said that, it is equally our freedom to demonstrate our national pride and American heritage by reacting to patriotic moments or symbols with an appropriate demonstration, be that a song, a salute, or a saying. Just as flag-burners have the right to desecrate the emblem of our liberty, we also have the right to conversely show our country its due degree of honor. Such behavior is not a "Pavlov's dogs" reaction of the mind, but rather, a gesture of the heart.  

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Wow!  What an interesting topic!

Noam Chomsky remarks,

For those who stubbornly seek freedom, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination. These are easy to perceive in the totalitarian societies, much less so in the system of 'brainwashing under freedom' to which we are subjected and which all too often we serve as willing or unwitting instruments.

That being said, there is little to distinguish indoctrination and socialization in a free society.  Of course a country trains its citizens in its basic principles and procedures!  A democracy is only as strong as the participation of its citizens -- and the citizens must understand their basic responsibilities and the precepts of the country to which they belong.

The problem is not when we inculcate these basic ideals in children.  Rather it is when we encourage or do not challenge blind adherence and the presumption that what government (or party) does is necessarily right.

To my way of thinking, good teachers encourage their students to think critically about these principles and the extent to which they are, in fact, being upheld.  If the principles are sound -- as I believe those underlying our Constitution are -- the student will renew his or her commitment to those ideals.  Even more importantly, the student will embark on a life-long course of participating in society's imperfect efforts to live up to those ideals -- and pointing out where we have fallen short.

 

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If tactics like this continue, and without her mentioning any justification such as playing the devil's advocate, file a formal complaint against her.  You can do this anonymously.  If she is just playing "devil's advocate", then fine, but to make you write an essay on it seems a bit over the top.  She should have just made her point and moved on, and not required formal assignments arguing the devil's side.

So writing this will be tough, IF she is looking for validation of her kooky theories.  I say go with your gut and don't write an essay in support of the thesis that she has given you.  Argue against it, and find as much support for your side as possible.  For example, in my school district-as in most others, I would imagine-kids do not have to stand and pledge allegiance to the flag.  It's just not required at all, because of the "God" issue involved in it, and districts have to be politically correct, not offending atheists and other sects that don't believe in God.  The fact that they aren't forced to say the pledge makes it totally different from the nazi society.  Find research on the kids that saluted the flag with a nazi symbol; try to pass it off as amy-lepore stated it, as just a bunch of kids being stupid (I get kids in my class all of the time who draw swastikas or marijuana leaves just to get a reaction; I give them none, and they stop).  So, with a little research, you should be able to support a counter-argument.  Then, if she fails you or tears it apart, you know where her allegiance lies, and it isn't with supporting our country or being patriotic.  Good luck!!!

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Thinking back to my own Intro to Sociology class taken 30 years ago, it was clear that one of the intentions of the teacher was to force the students to question some of the beliefs we had held without question. For example,we believed that because we were going to college, we were entitled to a higher paying job because we were working hard. She turned that back on us, and forced us to realize that the great majority of us were not paying for anything ourselves, but by chance of birth had landed in families that could afford to  send their kids to college, perpetuating the family's upward mobility. I suspect your teacher is doing something similar, and instead of thinking "How dare she compare the practices here to the practices there?", to stop and think of the aspects of governments (good and bad ones) that are similar.

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Holy Cow!  You've got to be kidding me!  There is a HUGE difference in promoting patriotism and pride in your country and brainwashing little communist children.  For one thing, you are not taught in this country to turn in your parents if they don't put their hands over their hearts or stand to sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" and the "Pledge of Allegiance" at events.  For another, in this country, you are not educated away from the influence of your parents which they do in communist countries ie. The Nazi Youth.  You have every right to go home and ask your parents what they think about certain ideas (just like you're doing here) without any fear of rebuke and punishment.  In a Communist nation, you would not have such freedom.  Yes, young people are impressionable, and they will imitate things they think are funny or cute like salutes, but there is NOTHING close to brainwashing when you learn to recite the "Pledge of Allegiance" or sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" in order to honor your country.

It is possible your teacher is playing the Devil's Advocate in order to get you to think and support your own arguments.  However, if you think this is not the case, then let her wacky statements about brainwashing go in one ear and out the other.

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