Does the Pledge of Allegiance harm American students? Is it mere indoctrination into loyalty to the government, a way to habituate students into seeing the government as superior to God and family?
The life of of one of the most notorious of the French revolutionaries, Bertrand Barere, made me wonder.
One of his most important reforms in 1793 was “the inculcation of national patriotism through a system of universal elementary education.” For Barere, faith in the state was to replace faith in the Catholic religion. His religion of the state was given a “catechism, religious rites, sacred emblems, and mystic devotion (Gershoy).”
Given the vulnerability of young people to indoctrination and propaganda, I have always been suspicious of federal government involvement in education. I have always assumed that such involvement on a federal level began with President Carter’s creation of the Department of Education in 1979. However, I was surprised to find that we had a “U.S. Commissioner of Education,” Henry Barnard, as early as 1867.
The use of the educational system to create servants of the state in both Revolutionary France and Nazi Germany make me cautious even of something as seemingly innocuous as a pledge to our flag. It would be ironic indeed if, in their support of the Pledge, the self-proclaimed friends of freedom, conservatives, are actually laying the groundwork for tyranny.
- Gershoy, Leo. “Barère, Champion of Nationalism in the French Revolution”. Political Science Quarterly 42.3 (1927): 419–430. Web.
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