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Patriotism, Pedagogy, and Freedom: On the Educational Meanings of September 11

by Michael W. Apple - 2002

In this essay I wish to focus on the most local of levels: the complicated ways in which 9/11 was experienced phenomenologically by teachers such as myself, and the little known effects it had on pedagogy and on the urge to have schools participate in a complicated set of patriotic discourses and practices that swept over the United States in the wake of the disaster.

Amid the volumes of material that have been published on the September 11 attacks - some of it uncritically patriotic and some of it more thoughtful and nuanced in its search for answers to why there may be such hatred toward the U.S. - little attention has been paid to the effects of this tragedy on education.[1] I do not think that the terrifying acts of 9/11 can be understood in isolation from the international and national contexts out of which they arose (see, e.g., Chomsky, 2002), Yet, I also believe that we must pay close attention to the very personal ways in which 9/11 was experienced phenomenologically by teachers such as myself, and the little known effects it has had on pedagogy and the political urge to have schools participate in a complicated set of patriotic discourses and practices that swept over the United States in the wake of the disaster.

Given this focus, parts of my analysis in this article will need to be personal. I do this not because I think that I have any better purchase on reality than the reader, but because all of us may be better able to understand the lived effects of 9/11 by exploring what it meant to identifiable social actors and educators like myself. Thus, I explore in this essay the tension I felt as an educator who wanted to create both space within my university classroom for students to express their anger and outrage and also to raise some fundamental questions about why there are people in many parts of the world who have such extremely negative feelings toward the U.S. and the global capitalism our economy fosters that they would go to any extreme to call attention to their cause. I start at the personal level, but my aim is to participate in a collective project in which people from many different social locations and positions tell the stories of what 9/11 meant, and continues to mean, for their lives and educational practices. I then discuss the impact of 9/11 on the politics of the school board in Madison, WI, where I live. Here, we see that the politics of "patriotism" made it much more difficult for schools at all levels to engage in social criticism or meaningful dialogue about U.S. policies and economic power. As we shall also see, 9/11 had powerful and worrisome effects that are often hidden in our rush to use schools for "patriotic" purposes.

Like many people I am certain, I sat and watched the TV coverage of September 11 for hours -- interviews, screaming people running away, running toward, but always running-or seeking cover. A contradictory welter of emotions and political understandings and interpretations constantly surged within me. Then, by that night and throughout the days and nights that followed, the ruling pundits took charge of the public expression of what were the legitimate interpretations of the disaster. Given this media spin, I realized that the important question for educators at all levels of the educational system was how do we make meaning of these horrific acts and how do we create spaces within our classrooms to try to interpret this tragic event. I tried to come to grips with this in the context of my observation that, speaking very generally, the American public has little patience with the complexities of international relations and even less knowledge of United States' complicity in supporting and arming dictatorial regimes; nor does it have a developed and nuanced understanding of US domination of the world economy, of the negative effects of globalization, of the environmental effects of its wasteful energy policies and practices, and so much more, despite the nearly heroic efforts of critics of US international policy such as Noam Chomsky (see, e.g., Chomsky, 1999). This speaks to the reality of the selective tradition in official knowledge and in the world beyond our borders that the news portrays (Apple, 2000). Even when there have been gains in the school curriculum--environmental awareness provides a useful example--these have been either adopted in their safest forms (See Fraser, 1989) or they fail to internationalize their discussions. Recycling bottles and cans is "good;" connections between profligate consumption of a disproportionate share of the world's resources and our daily behavior are nearly invisible in schools or the mainstream media. In this regard, it is helpful to know that the majority of non-business vehicles purchased in the United States are now pick-up trucks, mini-vans, and sport utility vehicles-a guarantee that energy conservation will be a discourse unmoored in the daily practices of the US consumer and an even further guarantee that the relationship between US economic and military strategies and the defense of markets and, say, oil resources will be generally interpreted as a fight to protect the "American Way of Life" at all costs.

I mention all this because it is important to place what happened in the wake of September 11 in a context of the "American" psyche and of dominant American self-understandings of the role the United States plays in the world.[2] In the domestic events surrounding September 11, we had now become the world's oppressed. The (always relatively weak) recognition of the realities of the Palestinians, or the poor in what we arrogantly call "the third world," was now evacuated. Almost immediately, there were a multitude of instances throughout the nation of people who "looked Arabic" being threatened and harassed on the street, in schools, and in their places of business. Less well known, but in my mind of great importance since they show the complexities of peoples' ethical commitments in the face-to-face relations of daily life, were the repeated instances of solidarity including university and community demonstrations of support for Islamic students, friends, and community members. Yet these moments of solidarity, though significant, could not totally make up for such things as Islamic, Punjabi, Sikh, and other students in high schools and at universities being threatened with "retaliation" and in the case of some Punjabi secondary school students being threatened with rape as an act of "revenge" for September 11. This documents the connections between some elements of national identity and forms of masculinity, a relationship that cries out for serious analysis (Weaver-Hightower, in press).

At the universities, some teachers ignored the horror, perhaps for much the same reason that I, as a young teacher in 1963, had dealt with the Kennedy assassination by simply resorting to normality as a defense against paralysis and continued giving a spelling test as though nothing had happened. In other university classes, days were spent in discussions of the events. Sadness, disbelief, and shock were registered. But just as often, anger and a resurgent patriotism came to the fore. Any critical analysis of the events and of their roots in the hopelessness, denial of dignity, and despair of oppressed peoples -- as I and a number of my colleagues put forward in our classes and seminars -- had to be done extremely cautiously, not only because of the emotionally and politically charged environment even at a progressive university like my own, but also because many of us were not totally immune from some of the same feelings of anger and horror. Even for progressive educators, the events of September 11 worked off of the contradictory elements of good and bad sense we too carried within us and threatened to pull us in directions that, in other times, would have seemed to be simplistic and even jingoistic. But at least for me, and the vast majority of my colleagues and graduate students, the elements of good sense won out.

Given these elements of good sense, it was clear that pedagogical work needed to be done. But this wasn't a simple issue, since a constant question, and tension, was always on my mind. How could one condemn the murderous events, give one's students an historical and political framework that puts these events in their larger critical context, and provide a serious forum where disagreement and debate could fruitfully go on so that a politics of marginalization didn't occur in the classes -- and at the same time not be seen as somehow justifying the attacks. While I had very strong feelings about the need to use this as a time to show the effects of US global economic, political, and cultural policies, I also had strong "teacherly" dispositions that this was also not the time to engage in a pedagogy of imposition. One could not come across as saying to students or the public, "Your understandings are simply wrong; your feelings of threat and anger are selfish; any voicing of these emotions and understandings won't be acceptable." This would be among the most counter-productive pedagogies imaginable. Not only would it confirm the already just-near-the-surface perceptions among many people that somehow the left is unpatriotic, but such a pedagogy also could push people into rightist positions, in much the same way as I had argued in my own work about why people "became right" (Apple, 1996). This required a very strategic sense of how to speak and act both in my teaching and in my appearances on national media,

Take my teaching as a major example. I wanted my students to fully appreciate the fact that the US-led embargo of Iraq had caused the death of thousands upon thousands of children each year that it had been in place. I wanted them to understand how US policies in the Middle East and in Afghanistan itself had helped create truly murderous consequences. However, unless their feelings and understandings were voiced and taken seriously, the result could be exactly the opposite of what any decent teacher wants. Instead of a more complicated understanding of the lives of people who are among the most oppressed in the world-often as a result of Western and Northern economic and political policies (Greider, 1997)-students could be led to reject any critical contextual understanding largely because the pedagogical politics seemed arrogant. In my experiences both as an activist and a scholar, this has happened more often than some theorists of "critical pedagogy" would like to admit.[3]  None of us is a perfect teacher, and I am certain that I made more than a few wrong moves in my attempts to structure the discussions in my classes so that they were open and critical at the same time. But, I was impressed with the willingness of the vast majority of students to re-examine their anger, to put themselves in the place of the oppressed, to take their more critical and nuanced understandings and put them into action. Indeed, one of the things that was striking was the fact that a coalition of students in my classes was formed to engage in concrete actions in their own schools and communities, as well as in the university, to interrupt the growing anti-Islamic and jingoistic dynamics that were present even in progressive areas such as Madison and the University of Wisconsin.

This politics of interruption became even more important, since these complicated pedagogical issues and the contradictory emotions and politics that were produced in the aftermath of 9/11 were felt well beyond the walls of the university classroom. At times, they also had the effect of radically transforming the politics of governance of schooling at a local level in communities throughout the United States. One example from Madison can serve as a powerful reminder of the hidden effects of the circulation of discourses of patriotism and "threat" as they move from the media into our daily lives.


On an October evening that hinted at the coming of cooler weather, more than 1,200 persons packed the auditorium where the Madison Board of Education had called a special public hearing. Flags were everywhere, in hands, on lapels, pasted on jackets. The old and trite phrase that "you could cut the tension with a knife" seemed oddly appropriate here. The tension was somehow physical; it could literally be felt, almost like an electrical current that coursed through your body. And for some people present at the hearing, the figures behind the front table deserved exactly that. They needed to be electrically shocked.

In August 2001, well before the 9/11 disasters, the seeds of this conflict had been planted in what were seemingly innocuous ways. Smuggled into the Wisconsin state budget was a bit of mischief by conservative legislators seeking to gain some arguing points for the next election. There was a section in the budget authorization bill that required that students in all public (state funded) schools publicly recite "The Pledge of Allegiance" or that schools play or sing "The Star Spangled Banner," a national anthem that is a strikingly militaristic song with the added benefit of being nearly impossible for most people -- and certainly most children -- to sing. Even though the legislation allowed for "non-participation," given the long and inglorious history of legislation of this kind in the United States, there was a clear implication that such lack of participation was frowned upon. This was something of a time bomb just waiting to explode. And it did.

In the midst of the growing patriotic fervor following 9/11, the Madison, Wisconsin School Board voted in early October to follow the law in the most minimalist way possible by mandating that administrators play only instrumental versions of the anthem. For some Board members, the law seemed to be the wrong way to teach patriotism. Rote memorization was not the best approach if one actually wanted to provide the conditions for the growth of thoughtful citizenship. For others, the law was clearly a political ploy by conservative legislators to try to gain more support among right-wing voters in an upcoming election that was felt to be a close call. And for other board members, there were a number of principles at stake. The state should not intervene into the content of local school board decisions of this type. Further, not only had the new law not been subject to close public scrutiny and serious debate, but it threatened the cherished (at least in theory) Constitutional right of freedom of dissent. For all of these reasons, a majority of people on the school board voted not to have the reciting of the Pledge or the singing of the anthem in the Madison Public Schools.

The School Board did actually comply with the law by having the music - if not the lyrics -- of the anthem played over the loudspeaker. This would eliminate the more war-like words that accompanied the music. Some members of the Board felt that in a time of tragedy in which so many innocent lives had been lost, the last thing that students and schools needed were lyrics that to some glorified militarism. The solution was a compromise: play an instrumental version of the anthem.[4]

Within hours, the furor over their decision reached a boiling point. The media made it their major story. Prominent headlines in a local conservative newspaper stated such things as "School Board Bans Pledge of Allegiance." This negative coverage occurred even though the Board had actually complied with the formal letter of the law, and even though the Board had indeed held public hearings prior to their actions where many people had objected both to the law and to the saying of the Pledge and the singing of the anthem. Conservative politicians and spokespersons, colonizing the space of fear and horror over the destruction of the World Trade Center, quickly mobilized. This could not be tolerated. It was not only unpatriotic, but it was disrespectful both to the women and men who died in the disaster and to our military overseas. To those being mobilized, it also was a signal that the board was out of touch with "real" Americans, one more instance of elite control of schools that ignored the wishes of the "silent majority" of "freedom loving" and patriotic Americans.

At the meeting of the School Board, approximately fifty percent of the speakers from the audience supported the Board's original decision to require neither the Pledge nor the singing of the anthem, a fact that was deeply buried in the news accounts that consistently highlighted the conservative mobilization against the Board. This is in part because the voices of those supporting the Board's vote were often drowned out by those who opposed it. A cacophony of hisses, boos, chants, and phrases reminiscent of earlier periods of "red-baiting" greeted each speaker who spoke out in favor of the Board's actions. Meanwhile, those who spoke out against the Board were greeted with applause and loud cheers. (It almost sounded like an Olympic event in which the chant of "USA, USA" could be heard.)

Throughout it all, the Board members tried to remain civil and not respond to what were at times quite personal attacks on their patriotism. In many ways, the hours upon hours of the meeting and the intense conflicts and debates that ensued could be interpreted as an example of democracy in action. In part such an interpretation is undoubtedly correct. Yet, the harshness of the language, the theater of patriotic symbols, the echoes of war-fever, all of this also added up to a politics of intimidation at times as well. Having said this, however, there was also a sense of genuine expression of pain and hurt, a recognition that "ordinary Americans" had been killed and that schools had to recognize the deaths as having occurred among "people like ourselves."

The populist notes being struck here are crucial, since hegemonic alliances can only succeed when they connect with the elements of "good sense" of the people (Apple 1996, 2001). Popular worries over one's children and the schools they attend in a time of radical corporate down-sizing and capital flight, worries about social stability and cultural traditions that are constantly being subverted by the commodifying processes and logics of capital, and so much more - all this allows conservative groups to suture these concerns into their own anti-public agenda. Thus, rampant and fearful conservatism and patriotism are not the only dynamics at work in this situation, even though the overt issue was about the Pledge and the anthem. None of this could have happened without the growing fear of one's children's future and over the nature of an unstable paid labor market, and especially without the decades-long ideological project in which the right had engaged to make so many people believe that "big government" was the source of the social, cultural, and economic problems we face (Katz 2001, Apple, 1996, 2001).

Yet, there were more conjunctural reasons for this response as well. It is always wise to remember that while the State of Wisconsin was the home of much of the most progressive legislation and of significant parts of the democratic socialist tradition in the United States, it also was the home of Senator Joseph McCarthy-yes, the figure for whom McCarthyism is named. Thus, behind the populist and social democratic impulses that have had such a long history here, there lies another kind of populism. This one is what, following Stuart Hall (1980), I have called "authoritarian populism," a retrogressive assemblage of values that embodies visions of "the people" that has been just as apt to be nationalistic, anti-immigrant, anti-cosmopolitan, anti-communist, pro-military, and very conservative in terms of religious values (Apple 2001). In times of crisis, these tendencies can come to the fore. And they did, with a vengeance.

Of course, we cannot understand any of this unless we understand the long history of the struggles over the very meaning of freedom and citizenship in the United States (Foner, 1998). For all of the protagonists in the school board controversy, what was at stake was "freedom." For some, it was the danger of international terrorism destroying our "free" way of life. Nothing must interfere with the defense of "American freedom," and schools were on the front lines in this defense. Thus, an uncritical and unquestioning pedagogy of patriotism was what the schools needed to foster at this time of national crisis. For others, such freedom was in essence meaningless if it meant that citizens couldn't act on their freedoms, especially in times of such crises. Silencing dissent, imposing forms of compulsory patriotism-- these acts were the very antithesis of freedom. A hidden curriculum of compulsory patriotism would, in essence, do exactly this.

This documents an important point. Concepts such as freedom are sliding signifiers. They have no fixed meaning, but are part of a contested terrain in which different visions of democracy exist on a social field of power in which there are unequal resources to influence the publicly accepted definitions of key words. In the words of one of the wisest historians of such concepts:

The very universality of the language of freedom camouflages a host of divergent connotations and applications. It is pointless to attempt to identify a single "real" meaning against which others are to be judged. Rather than freedom as a fixed category or predetermined concept, ...it [is] an "essentially contested concept," one that by its very nature is the subject of disagreement. Use of such a concept automatically presupposes an ongoing dialogue with other, competing meanings. (Foner, 1998, p.xiv)

The realization of how concepts such as democracy and freedom both act as sliding signifiers with no fixed meaning and can be mobilized by varying groups with varying agendas returns us to a point I made earlier -- the ideological project in which the economic and cultural right have engaged. We need to understand that widely successful effects of what Roger Dale and I have called "conservative modernization" have been exactly that - widely successful (Dale 1989/1990; Apple 2001). We are witnessing - living through is a better phrase -- a social/pedagogic project to change our common sense, to radically transform our assumptions about the role of "liberal elites," of government and the economy, about what are "appropriate" values, the role of religion in public affairs, gender and sexuality, "race," and a host of other crucial areas. Democracy has been transformed from a political concept to an economic one. Collective senses of freedom that were once much more widespread (although we need to be careful of not romanticizing this) have been largely replaced by individualistic notions of democracy as simply "consumer choice." While this has had major effects on the power of labor unions and on other kinds of important collective social movements, it also has created other hidden needs and desires besides those of the rational economic actor who makes calculated individual decisions in a market (Apple 2000, 2001, Kintz 1997). I think that these needs and desires have also played a profound role in the mobilization of the seemingly rightist sentiment I have been describing.

Underneath the creation of the unattached individualism of the market is an almost unconscious desire for community. However, community formation can take many forms, both progressive and retrogressive. At the time of 9/11, both came to the fore. The School Board's decision threatened the "imagined community" of the nation at the same time as the nation actually seemed to be under physical threat (Anderson, 1991). It also provided a stimulus for the formation of a "real" community, an organization to "win back" the space of schooling for patriotism. The defense of freedom is sutured into the project of defending the nation, which is sutured into a local project of forming a (rightist) counter-hegemonic community to contest the anti-patriotic and ideologically motivated decisions by urban liberal elites. Thus, the need to "be with others," itself a hidden effect of the a-social relations of advanced capitalism, has elements of good and bad sense within it. Under specific historical circumstances these elements of good sense can be mobilized in support of a vision of democracy that is inherently undemocratic in its actual effects on those people in a community who wish to uphold a vision of freedom that not only legitimates dissidence but provides space for its expression.[5]

In saying this, do not read me as being totally opposed to ideas of nation or of the building of imagined communities. In my mind, however, social criticism is the ultimate act of patriotism. As I say in Official Knowledge (Apple 2000), rigorous criticism of a nation's policies demonstrates a commitment to the nation itself. It says that one demands action on the principles that are supposedly part of the founding narratives of a nation and that are employed in the legitimation of its construction of particular kinds of polities. It signifies that "I/we live here" and that this is indeed our country and our flag as well. No national narrative that excludes the rich history of dissent as a constitutive part of the nation can ever be considered legitimate. Thus, in claiming that the board had acted in an unpatriotic manner, the flag-waving crowd and the partly still inchoate movement that stood behind it in my mind was itself engaged in a truly unpatriotic act, one which showed that the national narrative of freedom and justice was subject to constant "renegotiation" and struggle over its very meaning.[6] The 9/11 tragedy provided the conditions for such struggles at a local level, not only in the classrooms at universities such as my own but in the ordinary ways we govern our schools.

In Madison, even with the forces arrayed against it, the threat to call a special election to oust all of the board members who voted against the mandatory Pledge and singing stalled. In fact, the recall campaign failed by a wide margin. The conservative organizers were not able to get anywhere near the number of votes needed to force a new election. This is a crucial element in any appraisal of the lasting effects of 9/11. In the face of resurgent patriotism and anger, in the face of calls for an enhanced national security state and for schools to be part of the first line of defense, at the local level in many communities wiser heads, ones with a more substantive vision of democracy, prevailed. Yet, this is not the end of this particular story. The pressure from the right did have an effect. The board reversed its policy, leaving it up to each individual school to decide if and how they would enforce the mandated patriotism. This decision defused the controversy in a way that has a long history in the US. Local decisions will prevail; but there is no guarantee that the decisions at each local school will uphold a vision of thick democracy that welcomes dissent as itself a form of patriotic commitment.

Still, the issues surrounding thick democracy at a local level do not end with the question of whether dissent is welcome or not. To document why we must go further, I need to point to other crucial dynamics that were at work and that were the unforeseen results of this controversy. When the recall campaign failed, conservatives rededicated themselves to winning the next School Board election. Two of the seats of people who had been among the majority of members who had originally taken the controversial decision were to be contested. Here too, the conservatives failed and both seats were taken by progressives. This again seems as if our story had a relatively happy ending. Yet, simply leaving the story there would miss one of the most important hidden effects of the September 11/Pledge connection. Instead, what I shall now describe shows something very different--that often the effects of seeming victories against rightist mobilization must themselves be understood as complicated and as occurring along multiple dynamics of power.

Because of the tensions, controversies, and personal attacks that developed out of the Board's deliberations, one of the members who had voted for the Board's minimalist response resigned right before the closing date for registering as a candidate for the next election. That member, an African American who had been on the Board for a number of years, was "worn out" by the controversy. In essence, while it is trite to say so, it became the straw that broke the camel's back. It had taken so much energy and time to fight the battles over funding cuts, over the development of programs that were aimed specifically at Madison's growing population of children of color, over all those things that make being one of the few "minority" members of a school board so fulfilling and frustrating, that the emotional labor and time commitments involved in the compulsory patriotism conflict and in its aftermath created an almost unbearable situation for him. Even though a progressive "write-in" candidate did win the seat that had been vacated, a cogent voice, one representing communities of color in the community, had been lost.

This points to a crucial set of unintended results. The legislation smuggled into the budget bill had echoes of dynamics that were very different from those overtly involved in the conflict over the Pledge, but these echoes still were profound in their effects. In the context of 9/11, this seemingly "inconsequential" piece of legislation not only created the seeds of very real conflicts and conservative mobilizations; but through a long chain of events, it also led to the loss of a hard-won gain. An articulate African American elected board member who had fought for social justice in the district could take it no more. In the conjunctural and unpredictable events both of and after the horror of 9/11, a bit of "mischief" in which Republican legislators sought to protect their right flank, rebounds back on the realities of differential power at the local level. Obviously, race was not necessarily on the minds of the legislators who placed that piece of legislation into the budget bill.[7] However, the effects to which it led ultimately were, profoundly, raced at the level of local governance.

I want to stress the importance of these effects. In any real situation there are multiple relations of power. Any serious understanding of the actual results of September 11 on education needs to widen its gaze beyond what we usually look for. As I have shown, in the aftermath of 9/11 the politicization of local school governance occurred in ways that were quite powerful. Yet, without an understanding of "other" kinds of politics, in this case race, we would miss one of the most important results of the struggle over the meaning of "freedom" in this site. September 11 has had even broader effects than we recognize.


In the account I have given in the second half of this article, it is unclear then who really won or lost here. But one thing is clear: No analysis of the effects of 9/11 on schools can go on without an understanding of the ways in which the global is dynamically linked to the local. Such an analysis must more fully understand the larger ideological work and history of the neo-liberal and neo-conservative project and its effects on the discourses that circulate and become common sense in our society. And no analysis can afford to ignore the contradictory needs and contradictory outcomes that this project has created at multiple levels and along multiple axes of power.

Thus, I argue that educators - whether teaching a university class or participating in local school board decision making - must first recognize our own contradictory responses to the events of September 11. We must also understand that these responses, although partly understandable in the context of tragic events, may create dynamics that have long-lasting consequences. And many of these consequences may themselves undercut the very democracy we believe that we are upholding and defending. This more complicated political understanding may well be a first step in finding appropriate and socially critical pedagogic strategies to work within our classes and communities to interrupt the larger hegemonic projects-including the redefinition of democracy as "patriotic fervor"-that we will continue to face in the future.


[1] I would like to thank James A. Beane for his comments and for his help on the material used in this essay. Amy Stuart Wells also provided important and insightful suggestions on the content of this article. A different version of this paper will appear in the Australian journal, Discourse.

[2] Even though I have used this word before in my text, I have put the word "American" in quotation marks for a social purpose in this sentence, since it speaks to the reality I wish to comment on at this point in my discussion. All of North, Central, and South America are equally part of the Americas. However, the United States (and much of the world) takes for granted that the term refers to the United States. The very language we use is a marker of imperial pasts and presents. See Said (1978) for one of the early but still very cogent analyses of this.

[3] This is one of the reasons that, even though parts of the points may have been based on only a limited reading of parts of the critical pedagogical traditions, I have some sympathy with a number of the arguments made in Luke and Gore (1992) - and not a lot of sympathy for the defensive over-reactions to it on the part of a number of writers on "critical pedagogy." Political/educational projects, if they are to be both democratic and effective, are always collective. This requires a welcoming of serious and engaged criticism.

[4] This too led to some interesting and partly counter-hegemonic responses. At one school, a famous Jimi Hendrix rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" was played over the loudspeaker system. This version-dissonant and raucous-was part of the anti-war tradition of music during the Vietnam-era protests. This raised even more anger on the part of the "patriots" who were already so incensed about the Board's vote.

[5] Of course, the conservative groups that mobilized against the Board's initial decision would claim that they were exercising dissent, that their members were also engaged in democratic action. This is true as far as it goes. However, if one's dissent supports repression and inequality, and if one's dissent labels other people's actions in favor of their own constitutional rights as "unpatriotic," then this is certainly not based on a vision of "thick" democracy. I would hold that its self-understanding is less than satisfactory.

[6] In this regard, it is important to know that the Pledge of Allegiance itself has always been contested. Its words are the following:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

Yet, the phrase "under God" was added during the midst of the McCarthy period in the early 1950s as part of the battle against "God-less communists." Even the phrase "to the flag of the United States of America" is a late addition. The Pledge was originally written by a well-known socialist and at first only contained the words "I pledge allegiance to the flag." In the 1920s, a conservative women's group, the Daughters of the American Republic, successfully lobbied to have the words "of the United States of America" added as part of an anti-immigrant campaign. They were deeply fearful that immigrants might be pledging to another nation's flag and, hence, might actually be using the pledge to express seditious thoughts.

[7] As I have argued in Educating the "Right" Way (Apple 2001), however, race and the politics of "whiteness" have played a significant role in the historical development of neo-liberal, neo-conservative, and authoritarian populist anger at the state and in the development of their proposals for school reform.


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Apple, M.W. (2000). Official knowledge, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Apple, M.W. (2001). Educating the "right" way: Markets, standards, god, and inequality. New York: Routledge.

Chomsky, N. (1999). Profit over people. New York: Seven Stories Press.

Chomsky, N. (2002). 9-11. New York: Seven Stories Press.

Dale, R. (1989/90). The Thatcherite project in education. Critical Social Policy 9:4-19.

Foner, E. (1998). The story of American freedom. New York: Norton.

Fraser, N. (1989). Unruly practices. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Greider, W. (1997). One world, ready or not. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Hall, S. (1980). Popular democratic vs authoritarian populism. In Alan Hunt, ed. Marxism and democracy. London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Katz, M.B. (2001). The price of citizenship. New York: Metropolitan Books.

Kintz, L. (1997). Between Jesus and the market. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Luke, C. & Gore, J. (1992). Feminisms and critical pedagogy. New York: Routledge.

Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Pantheon.

Weaver-Hightower, M. (in press). The gender of terror and heroes? Teachers College Record.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 8, 2002, p. 1760-1772
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10939, Date Accessed: 10/23/2021 6:05:01 AM

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About the Author
  • Michael Apple
    University of Wisconsin, Madison
    E-mail Author
    MICHAEL W. APPLE is the John Bascom Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has written extensively on the relationship between conservative movements and educational realities. Among his most recent books are Official Knowledge: Democratic Education in a Conservative Age and Educating the “Right” Way: Markets, Standards, God, and Inequality.
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