"Nothing But the Truth" by Avi: Honesty and Expression of Personal Beliefs Elliott Auerbach

"Nothing But the Truth" is a documentary novel about a boy by the named Philip Malloy, who refuses to say the pledge in protest of his literature teacher because he blames her for her bad grade. Instead of reciting of the pledge, he hums "America the Beautiful', despite his teacher telling him not to. He is soon expelled for his actions, and he returns home to tell his father that he was expelled for singing the patriotic song rather than humming. His father soon spreads the story to the news and a candidate for the school board, and the news soon becomes a national story. The candidate school board uses his case for propaganda and in response, the school tells the English teacher to take time off from her job. Philip is allowed to return to school but learns that his fame is not all that positive because friends and the girl he likes are aware of what he actually did rather than the fake image that was created in the media about him. He eventually decides to leave the school when the girl he likes turns on him because she likes the English teacher and blamed Philip for sending her away. Upon arriving at his new school, he is asked to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, and upon doing so, he breaks down and cries that he does not know the words.

There are some large themes in Nothing But The Truth. It shows how powerful and controversial the Pledge of Allegiance debate is. Philip Malloy intended to only protest against his language teacher, but it was so controversial that it spread beyond the boundaries of what he intended and dragged him along further than what it really was to begin with. Another big theme is honesty. Philip is not honest about why he hummed in class and didn't stop the process even when his teacher was getting hurt. In the end, even though he gets what thought he wanted, he still hurts himself.

Source 1: The early Pledge of Allegiance Issue: West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnett.

A real life situation that relates to the fictional story of Nothing But the Truth is the Supreme Court case West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette from 1943. Marie and Gathie Barnett were Jehovah's Witnesses attending Slip Hill Grade School near Charleston, West Virginia. They were told by their father not to salute the flag or recite the pledge, and were expelled. In continued protest, their father told them to return to school every time they were sent home, eventually leading them to sue the school district. The case eventually made it to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court finally found in favor of the Barnetts. In a famous opinion, Justice Jackson, wrote some very inspirational quotes:

"The refusal of these persons to participate in the ceremony does not interfere with or deny rights of others to do so. Nor is there any question in this case that their behavior is peaceable and orderly. The sole conflict is between authority and rights of the individual."

"Government of limited power need not be anemic government."

" One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections."

This decision relates back to Nothing But the Truth in that the Barnetts found themselves stuck in situation that they didn't intend to cause. They only wanted to express their beliefs without interference. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled in their favor.


Source 2: Student 'Intimidated' Into Standing for Pledge of Allegiance gets apology

Another real world story that connects to this theme is a case involving Oak Park High School in 2014 where a student was intimidated into standing for the pledge and then later received an apology from the school district after a request from an atheist group. This seems very similar to how Philip Malloy and his English teacher interacted in the book, and how the decision came down on the side of the student's individual rights. It also ends up with the teacher's reputation being damaged.


Source 3: Atheist Group Says Nurse Refused Carlisle Student Over Pledge of Allegiance

This piece of evidence gives multiple perspectives of the type of cases shown in Nothing But the Truth, such as the student, the school and the students parents or guardians. The incident occurred as a student in Wilson Middle School, Carlisle PA Area School District was sitting in the nurse's office when the Pledge occurred. She remained seated as usual and when the nurse saw that she did stand like everybody else, she stated "I have the right to not serve you." The student asked to call her parents, and the nurse did not allow her. When the student confronted the counselor, she said that if she did not want to stand for the pledge, then she had to stand in the policy, and that it was district policy.

Later the student reported it to an atheist group, who then sent a letter to the school district, requesting an apology, stating that they had violated her first amendment rights. The school responded that they were aware that had violated certain aspects of her rights and were investigating.

This is a powerful example of the effect of a small act being expanded upon by other forces and becoming a larger problem than it originally was and becoming a new situation. The student just lit a match and ended up lighting the house on fire because of how controversial the issue is.



All of these stories, fictional or true, all circle around theme of a small act or idea being exaggerated into nationalized issue that takes on a life of its own. The issue of the Pledge of Allegiance is one of the most controversial issues of our time and although the Supreme Court is clear about their decision, these cases split between two sides. One believes that it is patriotism to show respect the flag, and there are other that believe it is patriotism to truly act free.


Created with images by mrsdkrebs - "American Flag"

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