Teaching Supreme Court Cases: Debating the Pledge of Allegiance in Schools

This blog and the accompanying resource are part of a Shaped monthly series providing teachers for Grades 6–12 with downloadable U.S. history classroom resources and discussion topics.

Since it first appeared in a magazine article in 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance has sparked debate within the United States. According to the National Constitution Center's Constitution Daily, the initial purpose of the pledge—written by Francis Bellamy—was to honor the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival to the New World, though at the time it didn't contain the words "under God." (That addition didn't come about until 1954, when President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill passed by Congress that inserted those words into the phrase "one nation indivisible.")

Take a look at the resource below (also available for download as a PDF!) to learn about an important Supreme Court case surrounding the Pledge of Allegiance: West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. In this case, the Supreme Court reversed its decision from Minersville School District v. Gobitis. Distribute this handout to your students so that they have a solid background on the case and can answer the two questions provided.

Classroom resource and student questions available for download.

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Learn more about HMH Social Studies, including the Judicial Inquiries program for middle and high school students to study 25 landmark Supreme Court cases that continue to impact their lives.

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