By EVAN KEAN

At the beginning of every school day since we were five, the American Pledge of Allegiance was how we all started our day: we rose from our seats, put our hands over our hearts, recited it as a group, and then sat for the minute of silence. The Pledge became part of the ritual of school, one that we simply accepted as naturally as lunch and recess. Most adults who went to public school here in the US still remember it from when they had to do it in school years ago. It was a custom, a habit.

In recent times, however, the Pledge is now being challenged and questioned. Critics question its necessity, and some claim it is forced upon students. Particularly, the phrase “Under God” has garnered much controversy on whether it should be included in what is an integral part of the public school system. Should the Pledge be a continued tradition across the country, or does it no longer have a place in today’s society?

The “Under God” clause of the Pledge, although only two words, has come to be one of the most widely debated and reviewed parts in American education. This is because, to some people, it violates the boundary that is supposed to exist between church and state, as established by the first amendment of the Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Although it’s true that “Under God” does have religious implications, does it really hurt or affect the freedoms of others? No, it doesn’t. It’s a symbol of what Americans over the years have come to believe in, something that even the Founding Fathers believed in. As then-Senator Obama said in his “Call to Renewal” Keynote Address in 2006, “Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation – context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase ‘under God.’ I didn’t.”

Besides worrying about what the literal words of the Pledge of Allegiance are, it’s important to remember the bigger picture here: what the Pledge of Allegiance is telling us.

As much of an inconvenience as the Pledge of Allegiance may seem to do, it isn’t just a pointless phrase that we have come to memorize. It serves as a verbal reminder: it tells us that we were born under this country and we do care about it.

Because J.E.B. Stuart has students from all across the globe, with all sorts of different ethnic backgrounds, we sometimes forget that we all truly have something in common: we are all citizens of a single country. Especially in our deeply connected, internationally-minded world, where people halfway around the globe can interact with each other instantly with the push of a button, it can be easy to forget what it means to belong to a single country. The Pledge of Allegiance isn’t some contract that we sign ourselves up to; rather, it’s a daily cue to tell us of where, and whom, we really are.

The next time the morning announcements come on and, like every day, you find yourself standing up to face the flag, whether you say the Pledge out loud or not, take a moment to think about what the Pledge is saying. Don’t just look at words on the surface, reflect on the meaning behind them. If everyone in the school, everyone in schools across the nation took the time to do this reflection, we would have a newfound understanding and appreciation for the country we live in: a United States more united.