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#ProjectCitizen: 8 facts you didn't know about the Pledge of Allegiance

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This is one part in a new KPCC series looking at the rights, responsibilities, traditions and privileges that come along with being a citizen. Let us know what you think.

Most of us have memories of saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school, but why exactly do we say it? Where does the tradition come from?

For KPCC's reporting series "Project Citizen," we visited local elementary students to ask students what they thought.

"It means you're grateful," said one first grader. 

We gathered up eight actual facts about the historic oath. Read them, and you just might win the next trivia contest you enter:

  1. The pledge was first written in 1892. It was unveiled in October at the Chicago World Fair Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. 
  2. The Pledge's author, Francis Bellamy, never intended the Pledge to be said on a daily basis. It was written for a national school celebration to commemorate Christopher Columbus' discovery of America.
  3. The original text for the Pledge of Allegiance did not include "under God." Congress officially added that phrase in 1954.
  4. The Pledge used to include a military-style salute. But the salute became associated with European fascists in the 1930s. Congress amended the U.S. Flag Code in 1942 to recommend the hand-over-the-heart salute.
  5. Until 1943, school children could be expelled for not saying the Pledge in school. That issue was resolved in the 1943 Supreme Court decision West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, which ruled that the right to not speak is equally protected under the First Amendment as the right to free speech. 
  6. California schools aren't required to teach the pledge. The state education code only requires a daily patriotic exercise. The pledge is prevalent throughout the state as a means to that end, but it's up to local school boards to adopt appropriate regulations. 
  7. Teachers don't have to say the pledge or lead their students it, even if their school district calls for a daily recitation by students. The First Amendment allows them to bow out.
  8. There were previous pledges to the flag. Civil war veteran George T. Balch wrote this one in 1885: "I give my heart and my hand to my country—one country, one language, one flag."

Bellamy's original text for the Pledge of Allegiance reads as follows: "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands—one Nation indivisible—with liberty and justice for all."

Do you think the Pledge of Allegiance is still valuable in schools? Have any little-known facts of American history to share? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page. 

Sources: Peter Meyer, contributing editor for Education Next Magazine and author of the book  "The Pledge: A History of the Pledge of Allegiance" and ACLU of Northern California.

RELATED: #ProjectCitizen: Does the Pledge of Allegiance still mean something in schools?

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