Saturday, December 16, 2006

Schools *Required* To Teach Patriotism

My liberal readers are already rushing to the barricades over this title. I mean, just who does that George Bush think he is, requiring schools to teach patriotism? Dissent is patriotic, and all that! The idea that schools should pass on our civic virtues to the young is so 1950's.

But liberals, how can you object when big government dictates something? I mean, you want government to control all aspects of our lives, and before NCLB, you wanted Washington to run education (ironically, it was the Republicans who used to want to dismantle the US Department of Education). Pay attention liberals: when you put government in charge of everything, sometimes that government is going to be run by people who don't agree with you. Then, where do you turn? You're forced to try to dismantle the very government you spent so much time building, just so you don't have to do something you don't want to do that government does want you to do. Conservatives cut out the middle man--we don't want government there in the first place.

So let's go back to being compelled to teach patriotism in schools. Are you liberals angry yet? Are those veins in your temples ready to burst? Are you ready to take to the streets?

The call for more patriotism in the schools coincides with a push by some local governments to crack down on teachers and students who refuse to stand for the national flag or sing an anthem to the emperor at school ceremonies.

Emperor? Emperor George? No, Emperor Akihito.

The education measure, the first change to Japan's main education law since 1947, calls on schools to "to cultivate an attitude that respects tradition and culture, that loves the nation and home country..."

"The new education law will allow children to acquire a good understanding of their heritage and become intelligent and dignified Japanese," ruling party lawmaker Hiroo Nakashima said during the upper house debate.

Yes, American liberals, it would be good to actually understand your heritage before you trash it. Maybe the Japanese are on to something here.


John S. said...

Patriotism, as in love and loyalty to country, is wonderful as understanding and knowing your heritage. Nationalism is what scares the crap out of me (like whenever I hear someone tell me it does not matter if the president is right or wrong [argument irrelevant here] but because he is my president I should support him—ahh! I fear such people). As for knowing your heritage: yes, yes, yes. Unfortunately, and I only speak to my experience, most conservatives I meet are deficient in their knowledge of America’s past compared to liberals (and we are talking about conservatives scoring an F and liberals a D). Most conservatives, or liberals for that matter, can recite 4 or 5 big wars, name the first three or five presidents, usually out of order, tell me a couple of amendments (again, out of order), and look like a deer caught in the headlights when asked basic American history questions. Regrettably, patriotism is a political word so it is difficult to discuss its meaning outside such discourse. Still, if we are to suggest patriotism includes knowledge of our country’s heritage then we need to, perhaps, acknowledge the general attitude (fact?) conservatives are less educated (higher education) as compared to liberals. Subsequently, the opportunity for liberals to learn more about America’s heritage in an academic setting is superior and, consequently, liberals have a better chance of being patriotic in terms of knowledge about their country’s heritage. Again, most conservatives I know (and I am sure it is vice versa for you) are largely ignorant of America’s history—for good or bad. Patriotism today seems to imply exaltations and love for country right or wrong. Such a definition is not what I am used to and actually am very frightened of. If we are talking about teaching the history of America as a presentation of the facts, from exalting the greatest generation of World War II to condemning the Slave trade then I am on board. Presentation of fact compared to opinion—but, ah, what facts should we present? And what the hell is an historical fact or a national heritage?

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings on this one. We are required to do the Pledge and the Texas State Pledge every morning. I don't have an issue doing it, but I am not sure what the kids get from it. It's almost like a prayer muttered by reflex. And as for the whole "moment of silence" issue, none of my kids, secular, devout, practicing or whatever can stay silent for it. I would rather we have highly qualified teachers teaching the FACTS of American history over conjecture. As early as fifth grade I saw the classes pulling out situational ethics and it drove me nuts. But alot of our state testing is measured on such hypothetical nonsense, so I guess we get what we planned. If it was planned at all that is.

Darren said...

How can you be required to do the Pledge? The Supreme Court has said that it cannot be compelled. The argument was both compelling *and* persuasive.

John S. said...

“FACTS of American history over conjecture”

Fact: Thomas Jefferson owned slaves.

Conjecture: He would not if he lived today.

Question 1: Is the fact relevant?

Question 2: What can the fact tell us about Gentry society in Virginia?

Question 3: Will the conjecture stimulate discussion on the meaning of freedom in revolutionary America as compared today? Is freedom a universal term with a singular meaning over time and space? Is it worth discussing?

Who decides what “facts” are taught and when conjecture is inappropriate?

rightwingprof said...

"Fact: Thomas Jefferson owned slaves.

Conjecture: He would not if he lived today.

Question 1: Is the fact relevant?"

Is the fact relevant to what? "Relevant" is meaningless without context.

"Will the conjecture stimulate discussion on the meaning of freedom in revolutionary America as compared today?"

And to what, exactly is that relevant, unless you're trying to point out a trusim, that society changes over time? It certainly isn't in any way relevant to the ideas upon which the nation was based.

"Who decides what “facts” are taught and when conjecture is inappropriate?"

Why the sneer quotes?

Lillian said...

This is simply a return to an old format. I grew up in segregation, but we were taught patriotism and love for our country. We did not hate the country, rather we hated the inequality within the separateness of our conditions. Integration wasn't really the goal, but rather quality across the board...a level playing field, if you will.
But we were patriotic. We supported our military and our Presidents and our Constitution, even though we were 'second class citizens',
because it was a part of our daily lives to recite the pledge in school, and then sing America, or The Star Spangled Banner - everyday. Then we would recite the Preamble, and parts of the Gettysburg Address - by heart. We would sing American folk & patriotic songs next.
And this is the way my day started from K-8. We were taught to love America, (at least respect it) and as a result we were patriotic.
This didn't mean we couldn't dissent. It just meant that we had an understanding of what there was to dissent about, and why we were dissenting, and how to do it effectively.
Even slaves knew how to challenge the system and sue for their freedom, in those 13 States where patriotism was taught and the precepts of our country were established during the Revolutionary Generation. Former slaves were quite patriotic, as a result, and they worked tirelessly to change the mainstream ideals of slavery in early America.
I have always taught patriotism. It's embedded in my strategies for establishing core knowledge. But that's because I myself am patriotic. Although I am not sure how those who are non-patriotic will handle this perhaps they themselves will benefit from the lessons...
I've seen the pendulum swing back and forth a few times now since the 1950's...
The teaching of Patriotism in schools? Welcome back!

John S. said...

“Is the fact relevant to what? ‘Relevant’ is meaningless without context.”

John S: Okay.
Certainly, one could indict me for a lack of clarity. I incorrectly assumed I was clear. I see such is not the case. My apologies. The word relevant, however, and I am quoting the esteemed, is defined as “bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand; pertinent.” Consequently, given the already established context of teaching patriotism in school, which I, perhaps incorrectly, thought was clear given the context of everybody’s posts, I asked if teaching the fact Jefferson had slaves was relevant.

“And to what, exactly is that [what?] relevant, unless you're trying to point out a trusim [sp], that society changes over time? It certainly isn't in any way relevant to the ideas upon which the nation was based.”

John S.:
Well, to the first part of your twofold question I will partly refer to my above comment and add a sense of wonderment over your acknowledgement of change as a truism given your disdain for such a notion on other posts. Indeed, I perceived, obviously incorrectly, you felt universal truths and laws existed so why would change matter to you at all. Nevertheless, such things are petty and not relevant. To the second part of your question, I confess I am confused. Do you mean the concept of change is irrelevant to the Constitution? Contrarily, change is at the heart of all discussions concerning the importance of intent or original meaning. Yet, perhaps you meant the fact Jefferson owned slaves, as well as many of the constitutional delegates, is irrelevant. I am sorry I am so dense. Really. Still, I believe slavery is of paramount importance and relevance to the ideas upon which the nation is based because it directly relates to the Constitution’s draftees conceptions of what freedom, liberty, and democracy meant—especially as we honor them today.

“Why the sneer quotes?”

John S:
Huh? Did you mean to refer to my use of quotation marks? Assuming you meant my use of quotation marks then my answer is threefold:

1. Why not?
2. What is so sneer about them?
3. Quotation marks are often used to indicate words used ironically, with reservations, or in some unusual way. For the quotation marks under review, the purpose of their use relates to reservation because of my statement given above, you know, the context, concerning my questioning of what, precisely, is an historical fact.

Finally, related to your comment on another post, “Do You Want The Feds To Run Education?,” in which you wrote, “Only among those who can't read English.” I guess I am in such a category because I am showing repeatedly a lack of understanding you—and you write in English. Likewise, because change is a truism, I incorrectly assumed the way a person used English in the 1780s is different from such usage today. My apologies. I continuously prove to be inadequate and far too assuming. Again, I still thank Darren for allowing my posts and putting up with me. Really. My experience here, for the most part, has been miles above my experience posting on other conservative blogs.

John S. said...


Thank you for your pearls of wisdom and insight. I cherish your enthusiasm and respect your views, especially because what I have commented on has fallen into speaking of times I had not lived in and you have. I can, however, speak to what I have lived. Precisely, I never knew teaching patriotism in class had disappeared. I admit, perhaps my experience is the exception rather than the rule, however, I distinctly remember saying the pledge of allegiance everyday from K-12 (1980-1993). Likewise, I too had to remember the preamble to the Constitution, the Gettysburg address, and to this day, I can sing many patriotic songs I learned in class—Yankee Doodle, Grand Old Flag, Battle Hymn of the Republic, any number of Johnny Horton songs, God Bless America, Over There, etc, etc, etc. The list could go on and on. Also, I know of tons of patriotic songs written in my lifetime from Lee Greenwood to Toby Keith to Whitney Houston to even the British rocker Elton John. So, again, I am a little confused by the notion the teaching of patriotism has left the schools. Do you mean post 1993? To such, I will have to trust you. Still, my 10-year-old-nephew can never get The Battle of New Orleans out of his head, and he learned it in school. He also portrayed Lincoln in a school play in 2004 (terribly cute and well performed I must say!). He can recite the first seven presidents with no problem, the Preamble, and parts of the Gettysburg Address.

The notion slaves were patriotic is certainly true. How typical such patriotism was or the motives behind such patriotism are unclear for me. I confess I have been largely influenced by Eugene Genovese’s Roll, Jordan, Roll and Walter Johnson’s Soul By Soul, or even Ira Berlin’s Many Thousands Gone, so my thoughts are not entirely original. I could easily counter slaves were unpatriotic by sighting examples of slave rebellions, resistance, and, most strongly, the number of slaves that joined Lord Dunmore or were Black Loyalists. I do not even no what to make of “Back to Africa” plans or Sierra Leone. In addition, just as slaves were able to use notions of paternalism and capitalism in their favor, I ASSUME slaves may have done the same with patriotism. Certainly, as war broke out and a Virginia planter is worried about his slaves bolting for Lord Dunmore he, perhaps, made threats. To thwart threats from becoming reality I can easily imagine a slave professing a great patriotic spirit. If such was true, I have no idea though.

John S. said...

Opps: I wrote, "I do not even no what to make of “Back to Africa” plans or Sierra Leone."

Apparently, I do not KNOW the difference between no and know. Hope rightwingprof is off today. My apologies everyone.

Lillian said...

I understand where you are coming from. Perhaps patriotism did not leave the classroom per certain teachers, but the curriculum certainly excluded it.
You must know that there are teachers who use their classrooms to rip our country and leaders apart, and you must know that many colleges prepare their teachers to believe that they are enlightening their students when they do this.
I have pictures of Kennedy, and Bush in my classroom. I've had questions as to why President Bush's photo is displayed. This leaves me wondering who is indoctrinating the younger generations against a sitting President...or who would question why a sitting President's picture is being displayed. This is obviously due to a lack of respect for the OFFICE of the POTUS, and this has to do with a lack of direct instruction in patriotism.
I'm constantly amused at the references to Thomas Jefferson, as if he is the only figure in history who was tormented by the times he lived in, and had to endure the constant scrutiny of his controversial lifestyle.
Yes, he fathered five children by his slave mistress, Sally Hemmings. But Sally was also his sister-in-law (his wife, Martha's, half sister). Remember, this was after Martha passed.
Also, Sally was 15 or 16 when she bore the first child by him. He was 38. Sally was also a quadroon, and fair enough to have easily 'passed' for white. She could have remained a free woman after Jefferson returned to the USA from France where the love affair began while he was Ambassador.
The point is that while Jefferson was probably guilty of statutory rape, incest, and miscegenation, he was also in love with and committed to Sally - for life, and though he was possibly the most eligible bachelor in America at the time, he never remarried, and lived with her for over 40 years peacefully and quietly in Virginia (not that he didn't have many people trying to marry him off or seduce him). But Sally ran his Monticello; grieved along with him the departure of at least three of the children who left Monticello to live in France under aliases; took care of him until he was a sickly old man; took care of his burial, settled his affairs (including bankruptcy) after he died; and continued to live on the property until her death with two of their sons.
Jefferson was caught between a rock and a hard place, but in a romantic sense, I feel that Sally has been overcharacterized as a 'slave', and not enough as the Strong Woman Behind the Man...his inspiration and the wind beneath his wings.
In other words, these two characters lived their lives as best they could in spite of the circumstances and the times. Remember that during this period, even blacks owned slaves. Slavery was a way of life for centuries throughout the world, the middle class's primary industry.
To not look at Jefferson or any President in the historical perspective of the times (he couldn't marry Hemmings due to miscegenation laws of Virgnia)is to try to place a time past into our present day.
It's like someone born in the 80's or 90's trying to understand my perspective of being born 'colored' in 1950.It really doesn't bother me to be colored. I am a product of the times.
Regardless of my circumstances, my relationships, my sins, or my hypocrisy - the times are still the times. They are historical and they should be presented as historical facts.
We only pervert the historical facts if we attempt to put emphasis and blame on the psychological, emotional, and somewhat schizophrenic personalities of these historical characters.
We tend to conclude that they MADE history, when they were actually surviving history - like us.
If we want to blame Jefferson for his obvious hypocrisy and discount his contributions to our country simply because he established a family with his sister in law, then we should also examine why an extremely beautiful woman of color like Sally Hemmings would want to return to Virginia with a man who would become the President, when she always had opportunity to live free in France. And why so many slaves refused to leave, and even returned to the plantations and their white 'famililes' after being emancipated.
It's for the same reasons we do unexplainable things in 2006. We do things for love, for family, for relationships. We don't always make sense while we're making history.
We're just human.

John S. said...

Thank you for the wonderful account of Sally Hemmings. Still, I am a bit confused by your point of drawing her into our conversation. I am likewise confused how you can claim, “To not look at Jefferson or any President in the historical perspective of the times . . . is to try to place a time past into our present day.” I agree with such a notion but how do we not. On the other hand, you say, “Jefferson was caught between a rock and a hard place, but in a romantic sense, I feel that Sally has been overcharacterized as a 'slave', and not enough as the Strong Woman Behind the Man...his inspiration and the wind beneath his wings.” As beautiful as such a conception of their relationship is, are you not violating what you just wrote above? The glorification of Jefferson and Hemmings relationship is an extreme counter to the demonizing of Jefferson as an upper class, gentry, slave owning, white male with extreme property and self-interests. I have no problem accepting your interpretation of Hemmings and Jefferson’s relationship, but wonder if you have, perhaps, read too much agency in her tale. Specifically, how much of her decisions did she have autonomy over? Did she stay in the relationship because she saw no better alternative, to best care for her sons, or some other reason? I confess I am only making conjectures, however, I do not see them any more hypothetical than yours. In addition, a quadroon woman fetched a higher price on the slave market, thus had a higher capital value to the slave owner, than, say, a mulatto because of the perception a light-skinned African American woman could do domestic work better (see Walter Johnson’s Soul by Soul for more). In addition, the WPA slave narratives give us dozens of examples where one slave relates how his owner classified him mulatto while another owner classified him as quadroon or something else. The notion of skin color is in the eye of the beholder—especially a slave owner who, in the context of the times, correlated value and a slave’s potential to do a certain type of work with skin color. If I, a slave owner, desired to run a large plantation, I would want to find a strong “dark” male because of the slave market’s definitions of such a man as best able to perform such work—thus I would take my “fantasy” of an ideal slave type with me when I judged various slave’s skin color (not to mention a slave trader “selling” me a “commodity” he would spin in any way he could). This is a sidebar, however, and the point is not addressed with my idiocy. Perhaps references to Jefferson have become amusing because he has become a symbol and not an individual in many regards. Such a Foucaultian method drives me bonkers as well, because, at some point, a spade is a spade. Jefferson, as well as any Founding Father for that matter, are symbols and our questioning of them is a problem of semiotics. The bigger problem is the lens in which we interpret such symbols. Precisely, a liberal or conservative lens—or any other for that matter.

I am also intrigued by your statement, “They are historical and they should be presented as historical facts.” What is an historical fact? Is it an historical fact Louis XIV went to the bathroom or an historical fact he started the Dutch War?

Also, your statement, “We tend to conclude that they MADE history, when they were actually surviving history - like us.” Such a statement trivializes everything you said about Sally Hemmings—human agency flies out the window. She no longer is “the Strong Woman Behind the Man...his inspiration and the wind beneath his wings.”

Lastly, “You must know that there are teachers who use their classrooms to rip our country and leaders apart, and you must know that many colleges prepare their teachers to believe that they are enlightening their students when they do this.” I do know such things—except the idea of colleges actually “preparing” their teachers for such villainy. Here, you have become the Foucaultian analyst resigning classrooms and colleges to mere symbols of a particular type. Likewise, I also know many teachers who use their classroom as a seminar of nationalism and college professors who preach a right wing slant. Still, I get your point. I am under no delusion education does not have a liberal bias, particularly in the colleges and universities. Still, you equate liberal bias with anti-patriotism and I still do not understand why. I know I am inviting a flood of responses, hopefully more thoughtful than angry, thought out and not assuming, but where does such a notion come from? As a liberally-oriented person I have always understood liberals and conservatives as wanting to make their country better but they disagreed with how best to do it. Because I disagree with Darren, Rightwingprof, and Allen, does not mean I think they hate America and purposely support a political paradigm destined to result in totalitarianism or some type of destruction of democracy. I hope they do not think the same of me—well, at least not Darren. Yet, in this discourse, I, perhaps, am the symbol of liberalism.