A critique of the pledge of allegiance is long overdue as is its abolition or replacement. Children all over the country recite the pledge, often replacing words.

It is a mindless activity. There are many good objections to its practice. First is the phrase “under God.” Either all nations are under God or none is, because there may be no God. When taken literally, it suggests that only the U.S. is under God.

Second, there is no liberty and justice for all. Prisons are filled with poor people who are also minorities, and they get longer sentences than poor or well-off white people.

Third, as a world citizen who sees no boundary lines on the earth when it’s viewed from space, I find it difficult to pledge to a small patch of geography. Thoreau addressed this issue well in “Civil Disobedience.” When people pledge to a small geographical entity, they are also giving up their consciences to the group.

Fourth, I also have a hard time pledging allegiance to a country that tortures people and imprisons them without trial.

Fifth, what exactly does allegiance mean? Does it mean paying taxes, obeying just laws, not trying to overthrow the government, serving in different ways, not littering, and trying to improve policies? If so, why do we need to pledge to these things? We should just do them. Too often, words replace actions.

As Newt Gingrich once said, “It’s more important what we say than what we do.” When I taught grade school, I substituted the pledge for readings of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, which some people have viewed as communist propaganda when read out of context. This promoted critical thinking and provided students with a genuine understanding of what this country stands for. If we feel that we really need a pledge, perhaps the one below would be a good replacement.

I pledge allegiance to the world

To cherish every living thing

To care for earth and sea and air

With peace and freedom everywhere

— Lillian Mellen Genser

Change is difficult but if we want a peaceful and just world, we need to stop using indoctrination and start developing people to their full potential by promoting the arts, teaching critical thinking, providing diverse points of view, teaching empathy and media literacy, teaching history honestly and establishing peace studies in schools.