Ideological indoctrination by K-12 schools
VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu
Sun Mar 28 13:22:41 PST 2004
I agree that the "under God" raises a different issue; I was reacting to Walter's suggestion that the Pledge is troublesome with or without "under God."
As to the distinction that Marty draws between the Pledge and the inculcation of racial tolerance, nonviolence, a certain attitude towards the environment, and so on -- I agree that there is such a distinction, but I doubt that it involves that much of a difference. Let's set aside Sunday morning talk shows and focus on kids being compelled to go to school several hours every day. These kids are taught certain attitudes; I expect sometimes tested in ways that strongly encourage them to repeat those attitudes; disciplined for expressing views that depart from those attitudes enough; in any event, being strongly discouraged from expressing contrary attitudes; and often being told that adults who express contrary attitudes are bad people. It doesn't seem to me that being told to engage in a rote exercise -- yes, even one that asks them to pledge allegiance -- for a minute every day really is that much more intrusive.
The fact is that we've asked our schools to inculcate "orthodoxy," in Barnette's words, in lots of ways. And that may well be good, for some of the reasons that Frank suggests, or at least good if you're going to have government-run schools. I'm glad that students in many schools are highly psychologically coerced -- and in fact, coerced more than just psychologically, but by the threat of discipline -- into not expressing racist views, and pressured into adopting racially tolerant views. The Pledge is just another orthodoxy that's being inculcated. The mechanism is different, but not, I think, that different.
Marty Lederman writes:
Yes. But the state every day is in the business of trying to inculcate certain values, beliefs, worldviews. (See, e.g., the Sunday morning talk shows that just ended.) I think Walter was getting at something far more troubling than the state simply attempting to "indoctrinate" its charges: Every morning, the state -- in the form of six-year-olds' most esteemed and trusted mentors and authority figures -- asks students to stand, as a collective with their closest peers, to place their hands over their hearts, to face the flag, and to pledge allegiance -- in a state-presceibed manner -- to the flag, and to "one Nation under God, indivisible." I imagine that it is this collective exercise in coerced patritoic affirmation of allegiance that reminded Walter of totalitarian regimes -- something that's a far cry from simply the teaching of the standard public-school curriculum.
I would also note that, for better or worse, rightly or wrongly, we (most of us, anyway -- and the Court) have come to accept the constitutionality of public schools "indoctrinat[ing] kids in ideologies" -- at least so long as the students and their families have a right to opt-out (see, e.g., Pierce). This is of a piece with the "government speech" doctrine that permits the state virtually unlimited authority to attempt to win over the hearts and minds of its citizens. But -- and this was Justice Kennedy's principal argument in Lee v. Weisman -- it is not legitimate for the state to attempt to inculcate religious truths, and especially not to do so in the coercive context of primary and secondary schools.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Volokh, Eugene" <VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu <mailto:VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu> >
To: "Dellinger, Walter" <WDellinger at OMM.com <mailto:WDellinger at OMM.com> >; <conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu <mailto:conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu> >
Sent: Sunday, March 28, 2004 1:23 PM
Subject: Ideological indoctrination by K-12 schools
> I appreciate Walter's thoughtful observations on this, but I wonder why his point 2 -- which as I understand it, is intentionally focused not just on "under God" but on the pledge generally -- doesn't condemn government-run schools generally. Government-run schools have long sought to inculcate certain broadly shared values. This has long included patriotism and compliance with the law. In recent decades, it has also included racial tolerance, environmentalism, and a range of other matters. That's the nature of American government-run schools.
> Now it's true that the other matter isn't inculcated quite the same way as the Pledge. But it's still inculcated, and quite effectively. I suspect that many schools both lecture to captive audiences of students about how racism is bad, and ask students questions to which the clearly expected answer is "racism is bad." And I suspect that students feel as psychologically coerced to express support for this orthodoxy, or at least not express opposition, as they are as to saying the Pledge. What's more, the very reasons that people have given for why the Pledge isn't really that effective -- it's rote and routine, and thus not taken very seriously -- may make the other methods of ideological indoctrination even more effective (and thus, to a libertarian conservative, threatening) than the Pledge.
> All this may actually be quite proper. Perhaps schools should try to indoctrinate kids in ideologies, such as racial tolerance, love of country, and the like that seem useful to making society function more effectively, and that seem morally worthy. But in any event, it's the reality of any system of government-run schools that's likely to exist. (I realize that some people have argued in favor of an educational system in which kids are constantly encouraged to challenge and question what they're taught; but I highly doubt that this is indeed so as to many matters in U.S. government-run schools, and I'm also not sure that such a totally open-minded educational approach will work well for most students.)
> Many libertarian conservatives would, I think, prefer that the government stop running schools, for this very reason, and leave the matter to private schools chosen by parents (perhaps with a voucher system under which the government provides the funding but not the message). But once the schools exist, I suspect that for many libertarian conservatives the second-best solution is to let the curriculum, including the values inculcation decisions, be decided by the majoritarian political process. First-best: Let parents decide. Second-best: Let the voters decide. Worst: Let judges, or the educational establishment freed of democratic control, decide.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu <mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu> on behalf of Dellinger, Walter
> Sent: Sat 3/27/2004 6:32 PM
> To: 'Levinson'; CONLAWPROF at lists.ucla.edu <mailto:CONLAWPROF at lists.ucla.edu>
> Subject: RE: RE: Meaning of "Under God"
> (2) Libertarian conservatives, of course, might
> object to the government setting up a system of having children stand and
> recite any government scripted message. To them, the footage of kids saying
> the pledge and the footage of Ilian Gonzalez back in Cuba standing and
> reciting a government message might look all too similar. (Of course, maybe
> in Cuba dissenting children are shot rather than excused from reciting as
> they are here.) . . .
> To post, send message to Conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu <mailto:Conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu>
> To subscribe, unsubscribe, change options, or get password, see http://lists.ucla.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/conlawprof <http://lists.ucla.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/conlawprof>
More information about the Conlawprof