Should children swear an oath of citizenship?
Children swear. They do it a lot. Adopt an invisibility cloak and roam any school and you will hear lots of words that aren’t on the curriculum.
Playgrounds, corridors, classrooms and the bogs. It’s enough to write a strongly worded letter to the Daily Telegraph about ‘broken Britain’ etc. And it’s not just children. Adults have to keep themselves in check all day long although the air in staffrooms has been known to turn a funny blue colour on many an occasion.
But there is another sort of swearing that happens in schools and in some parts of the world it is a daily habit that isn’t frowned upon. American children swear allegiance to their flag and in Britain we….don’t. Children shuffle about in the playground whilst their teachers swear all the time about budget cuts, Ofsted, marking and wellbeing.
Some say that America have got it right because their pledge of allegiance is a promise of loyalty to the United States. You don’t hear many pledging loyalty to the UK. It goes like this,
“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.”
The pledge was first published in 1892 in a magazine called “The Youth’s Companion.” The pledge is written to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. Of course the pledge has been a right old can of worms with various people opposing it and getting their knickers in a twist about the phrasing and why it even has to be said at all.
The same would happen here if we had a similar pledge and it would cause some people to explode in rage because it would violate something or offend them in a hundred different ways. They’d say it was a powerful tool of indoctrination and they’d call us Communists or Nazis.
But why is really such an awful thing to ask children to swear an oath of citizenship to the place they are living in? Surely we want to feel proud of who we are and where we live? Schools talk about being ‘one big family’ and pledge all manner of things when it comes to being ‘inclusive’.
In 2008 ex-attorney general Lord Goldsmith said school-leavers should be encouraged to swear an oath of allegiance to Queen and country as it would give them a sense of belonging. Right now, as then, a sense of belonging is what many people in Britain are longing for.
Some like to see Britain as an all-inclusive place to live where everyone is welcome and we all help each other and live like a Gumtree advert of shared compassion for our neighbours. But it isn’t like that. We are told we have more in common with our neighbours than we might think. Of course, if this means a shared humanity then yes but let’s get real. There are some neighbours who we have nothing in common with and don’t want to get to know, especially those dealing drugs on your doorstep.
National and local pride has never been more delicate. Do we even need to mention the B word here? Rather than focus on school leavers, what about introducing an oath right from the start of a child’s school life? Is fidelity, loyalty, and devotion really that bad?
Making a pledge would give children pride in themselves, their school and where they live. But I think we all know that the only swearing we are ever going to hear in schools is the sort that is going to get you detention. An oath will just be an unrealised dream.