Controversies Over the Pledge of Allegiance in Public Schools: Case Studies Involving State Law, 9/11, and the Culture Wars
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CitationMontgomery, Jennifer J. 2015. Controversies Over the Pledge of Allegiance in Public Schools: Case Studies Involving State Law, 9/11, and the Culture Wars. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractThis dissertation examines state-level efforts to mandate the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, especially following 9/11. Despite longstanding Supreme Court precedent declaring mandatory flag salutes unconstitutional, various state legislatures sought to institute or strengthen pledge mandates irrespective of students’ civil liberties. Driven by personal conceptions of patriotism, fears about cultural unity, and desires for political advantage, legislators pushed to institute new pledge mandates or defend existing ones without substantive consideration of their impact on students and schools. While the full impact of these laws has not yet been seen, some students have experienced harsh discipline and bullying due to pledge mandates, school personnel have needed to negotiate constitutionally questionable state law, and legislative persistence has yielded political victories and also resulted in an 11th Circuit-endorsed qualification of students’ civil liberties regarding compelled pledging.
Using historical methods, this dissertation examines efforts to mandate and/or enforce pledging primarily following 9/11. Case-study locations include Minnesota, which experienced a three-year battle over its mandate legislation; Colorado, which attempted to curtail opt-out rights of both students and teachers; and Pennsylvania and Florida, both of which undertook court cases to protect state laws that constrained students’ rights to freedom of expression regarding the pledge.
In designing this study, I expected mandate supporters to be advocating a form of civic education labeled by scholar Joel Westheimer as "authoritarian patriotism" and mandate opponents to be advocating a different form of civic education, labeled by Westheimer as "democratic patriotism." I assumed the debate over mandated pledging would largely be a debate over the best form of civic education that was already occurring in schools. While echoes of these debates occasionally occurred, legislators rarely addressed the educational aspects of this issue or its relationship to citizenship development. Instead, legislators emphasized broader concerns about threats to the culture and unity of the nation and focused frequently on gaining political advantage. In essence, little consideration was given to the effects of these laws on students and schools; instead, these legislative debates and laws served more as symbolic ammunition in what other scholars have identified as the "culture wars.”
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:16461048