Ritual, Emotion, and Political Belief: The Search for the Constitutional Limit to Patriotic Education in Public Schools
Brent T. White
University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law
February 16, 2009
Georgia Law Review, Vol. 42, 2009
Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 09-06
Young children across America begin the school day with ritualized expressions of loyalty to the nation-state. Relying upon evidence from the cognitive and neurosciences, this article argues that such patriotic rituals embed patriotic predispositions in children's unconscious at a time when they are especially vulnerable to emotional manipulation. These patriotic predispositions in turn sharply constrain children's future conceptions of political reality and shape their political beliefs. Additionally, by conditioning the same symbolic attachments in the vast majority of Americans, ritualized patriotic education contributes to the manipulation of the public by public officials, legitimizes anti-democratic aspects of the American system, and distorts political discourse. The article concludes by arguing that ritualistic patriotic education violates the First Amendment right to freedom of conscience and has no place in public elementary schools.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 96
Keywords: Patriotism, Freedom of Conscience, Education, Emotion, ObamaAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: February 19, 2009
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