Ritual, Emotion, and Political Belief: The Search for the Constitutional Limit to Patriotic Education in Public Schools

96 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2009

See all articles by Brent T. White

Brent T. White

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Date Written: February 16, 2009

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Patriotism, Freedom of Conscience, Education, Emotion, Obama

Suggested Citation

White, Brent T., Ritual, Emotion, and Political Belief: The Search for the Constitutional Limit to Patriotic Education in Public Schools (February 16, 2009). Georgia Law Review, Vol. 42, 2009; Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 09-06. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1344480

Brent T. White (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

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