In the article Politics and Patriotism in Education, Joel Westheimer made a clear distinction of what it means to follow “authoritarian patriotism” and “democratic patriotism.” The author defines authoritarian patriotism as the belief that one’s country is inherently superior to others and nonquestioning loyalty to ones country, leaders and support them unconditionally. On the opposing side Westheimer defines democratic patriotism as the belief that a nation’s ideals are worthy of respect and admiration and the questioning deliberative overall care for the people of society based on particular principles. Westheimer felt the need to clarify the distinction of the two forms of patriotism because it seems as though patriotism is beginning to be forced upon the people and primarily the students, and if people even second guess the government’s decisions they will be condemned by his or her peers and colleagues.
Throughout the article there were several examples of the wrongful punishment subjected upon teachers for giving their children a different perspective and each time they were treated like outcast and forced to reinstate everything if they wanted to keep their job. It is clear to say that Westheimer placed these examples in the article to show how this is no longer the land of the free if people are being forced to present themselves as patriotic and believe that America can do no wrong. It seems as if once 9/11 happened, it was like a gateway event for governmental officials to introduce the practice of patriotism to students. There were multiple bills passed in multiple states designating patriotic practices and allocating funding for courses specifically designed to inform students of why it is good to be an American.
It seems as if the author believes the authoritarian patriotism is becoming more popularly practiced in schools is because the government made it mandatory to learn about how “good” America is, and if you choose to believe otherwise you will be punished in one form or another. The perfect example for Authoritarian patriotism in the article was when the 17 year old David form Colorado was suspended for posting flyers about having a peaceful rally against the war in Iraq. This situation makes one think, how can one love thy country if the country is opposed to constructive criticism? Or how can one love thy county if the very thing America was found on, in regards to life and liberty for all, does not apply to decision making for the taxpaying citizens?
After reading this article I truly believe in what Westheimer was saying, because whenever you force a way of thinking or believing, it becomes less effective. We as Americans will no longer love our country because we really love our country, instead we will love our country because we have no other choice or else we will be punished. I also believe that the government was very conniving in terms of introducing this authoritarian patriotism right after 9/11 when everyone was hurt and vulnerable.
I cannot help but think that they purposely waited until something tragic happened to inflict this way of thinking onto to children because they know as time progresses the more people began to question authority, and by instilling this mentality while they are young, you do not have to worry about them while they are older and have a developed a mature conscience. While reading, I also instantly related the authoritarian patriotism to old Great Britain in which if anyone opposed the king, he or she will be punished for treason therefore forcing everyone to comply or be punished. The irony in it all is, is this or is this not the very thing they we wanted freedom from? Did we or did we not fight for liberation of this unjust mindset? I guess it is clear to say history has a way of repeating itself.
Courtney from Study Moose
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