Invisible Children in the Society and Its Schools

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13
Reflections on September 11,
Political Invisibility, and Teaching
Jane Fowler Morse
SUNY at Geneseo

The tragic and criminal events of September 11 have aroused a return to the kind of shallow patriotism that abounded in my childhood in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In school, I talked about other things than those that really concerned me. I said what I was supposed to say, when I knew what it was. I watched African American children being deliberately tormented by racist teachers and received my share of scorn for my parents' political views. Not that my tormentors knew much about the subject, but jingoism abounded. I learned to keep quiet when teachers said things I knew were untrue, and I learned to think about other things than what was going on around me. When I hunched down under my desk for atom bomb raids, I wondered why we couldn't discuss what was needed to prevent the bomb from ever being used again. Such things were never talked about in school. At home, we ridiculed the pamphlet we received from the Department of Agriculture advising us to milk the cows and collect the eggs before the bomb dropped. It was patently ridiculous. At school I said the pledge, sang the patriotic songs, repeated the Lord's Prayer, read the Bible, and ducked under my desk, as was required. But the things that could have made me feel proud and patriotic were few.

I think to myself now, what if we had taken democracy seriously and really practiced the maxim that “all men were created equal?” What if we had added “and women, ” as did the Declaration of Sentiments? I did not learn

-233-

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