Academic journal article High School Journal

Unburying Patriotism: Critical Lessons in Civics and Leadership Ten Years Later

Academic journal article High School Journal

Unburying Patriotism: Critical Lessons in Civics and Leadership Ten Years Later

Article excerpt


The aim of this manuscript is to provide a historical and pedagogical framework for American educational and sociopolitical responses after national tragedies (e.g., Pearl Harbor, 9/11). Moreover, this research explores the overt xenophobic and ethnocentric tendencies (exacerbated by media forums) after these events, which triggered resurgence in a sort of "trauma-based patriotism" or jingoism. Lastly, the research puts forth pedagogical strategies for teachers and educational leaders based in diversity and multicultnralism that will assist in healing the fractured realities of the 9/11 tragedy and serve to offer a thread of social justice-based continuity in social studies and civic education in the continuing post-9/11 years.

9/11 does not mark the first time in American history a national tragedy has marred the United States' sociopolitical or edu-political stance towards a specific region in the world. The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 is an earlier tragedy that caused a caesura in American history. Due to these historical caesuras and subsequent edu-political responses it is important for educators, especially educational leaders, to create, maintain, and support a curriculum grounded in diversity and multiculturalism. A conduit for this globally meaningful curriculum can be envisioned through a pedagogy that addresses the imperative need for a civic education that counters totalitarian policies embedded in the notions of freedom and safety.

During both times, our nation's schools have revisited social studies and civic education curricula. After the attack in 1941, formal lesson planning was amended to incorporate new learning objectives. Both the conservative and liberal agendas have embraced the unifying language of 9/11 and adopted educative platforms that challenge the efficacy of previous learning objectives. Academic concern, both then and now, has caused scholars to question the programmatic goals of social studies and civic education for secondary education. As such, my specific concerns for accurate and meaningful civic education curricula, inclusive of a liberal democracy, egalitarianism, and social justice lead to the framing question: On what concepts and pedagogical practices should social studies and civic education be based post 9/11?

The imperative for deciphering prudent concepts for current social studies and civic education is compounded by the numerous "informal lessons" inculcating students post 9/11. These are termed "informal lessons" because they are not necessarily taught in the classrooms but can be learned through different information vehicles. While theorizing a new national and individual identity post 9/11, it is necessary to take in the "informal" lessons in relation to public sentiments of xenophobia, patriotism, and nationalism. Many lessons imparted on and acquired by American citizens are transferred through the media and embedded in topics such as patriotism, xenophobia, and jingoism.

The ancillary lessons learned in conjunction with the tragic events of 9/11 have a strong place hold in the public sector. While formal curriculum is being adapted to reflect historical shifts post 9/11, the collateral learning is shaping public minds and informing reactions and responses. This new patriotism, infused with xenophobia and blind nationalism has the potential to lead to an ethnocentric belief of infallibility and supremacy. These concepts can be used to subvert the democratic process and prevent the promotion of egalitarian beliefs. The time to address these conceptual and pedagogical concerns is now.

Civic Education Criteria

One reason for the emergence of the public school system was to develop civic skills and civic-minded attitudes amongst young people. However, debates over what constitutes civic skills and civic-minded attitudes highlight the need for clearer definitions and sound academic prescriptions for the subject matter. …

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