Ideological indoctrination by K-12 schools
bobsheridan at earthlink.net
Sun Mar 28 18:00:31 PST 2004
When the inevitable pair of Jehovah's Witnesses rings your doorbell, you
can say, "Thanks, I don't want any," and close the door. Transaction
over. The desire of Christians to proselytize their sect's message has
thus been thwarted once again by nonbelievers, with no harm done to
either side, unless you were doing something when the doorbell rang...
But when a larger sect of Christians, who have the same urge to
proselytize, and the power to turn it into law by adding the 'under God'
words to the supposedly voluntary Pledge, bypasses the doorbell-ringing,
door-shutting routine and enters your kid's school, all of your kids'
schools in fact, the Larger Christian Sect has the Witnesses beat by a
mile when it comes to promoting its religious message.
Doesn't our Constitution protect us against both unofficial and
especially official attempts to create a captive audience for the
listening, and, a fortiori, the daily recital of the religious message?
Why do I, as a matter of individual liberty, freedom, or conscience, and
the right to make up my OWN mind about things, have to listen to
proselytizers, official or unofficial, but especially official.
I vote with Sandy's Slovenian.
I was also 14 in 1954, in the eighth grade in public school, when 'under
God' was added to Da Pledge. I disliked the change in meter and felt a
bit self-conscious about saying 'under God' in public, since what I
happened to believe or not at the moment on such things was a personal
matter to me.
However, since I was only fourteen, I felt I was alone in my view since
I didn't discuss it with anyone. I wanted then to believe in God. The
recital didn't say whose God, and I was learning to get along by going
along. So what was a kid to do lead a charge? Did I want to be the
first Mr. Newdow? I don't think so. Not in the McCarthy era in New
But now, a half-century later, having learned to think things through in
a larger context and to be more aware of the implications of things, and
not to be so afraid to voice an unpopular opinion, I think the
more-or-less requirement to stand and recite the daily Pledge in class
is wrong, a mistake. It is the kind of urge the Constitution protects
the proselytizee from having to put up with. That urge has several
1. The urge to preach what we think is right, true, accepted, or we
feel should be accepted by all.
2. The view that we are right and "Gott Mit Uns." That was the
legend on the belt buckles of Nazi soldiers...
3. The notion that if they don't want to listen, we'll MAKE 'em
4. The Jesuitical notion of 'Give me the child and I'll give you
5. The American (Christian originated) triumphalist and
exceptionalist views which proclaim WE have the inside scoop, the direct
pipeline to the Lord and all else that is good, and everybody else
really ought to fall into line if they knew what was good for them.
6. And why do those people (meaning the likes of me) insist on
being different anyway?
All of this is antithetical to my view of what America should be like.
This seems to be a conflict between one person's heart-and-mind versus
my heart-and-mind on an issue of de gustibus...in which case Gummint
oughta butt out.
Meyers, Pierce and Yoder stand for the idea that parents have the final
say over the upbringing of their children, not whoever has enough votes
this term to push something through Congress. As Mr. Newdow politely
observed for the benefit of the Chief Justice the other day, atheists
don't get elected to Congress. Is it Village of Stratton that makes the
point that you have to allow the proselytizee room to escape from
listening to the unsought message (abortion picketing cases make a
similar point as I recall...it's been awhile).
Isn't creating pressure to recite in unison a way of stealing a march on
the right to be left alone, to listen or not listen, much less to
profess a belief in anything, on the subjects of government or God?
Once you allow government to dictate what your kids recite in regimented
fashion every day from an early age, haven't you let the fox into the
chicken coop? Why not just put an un-shut-off-able speaker into every
class (or home)and have Chairman Kim squawk his message? Now that's
what I call promoting patriotism and national unity.
That Slovenian kid had it just about right, and we could learn...
From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
[mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of Lynne Henderson
Sent: Sunday, March 28, 2004 4:26 PM
To: Volokh, Eugene; Marty Lederman; Dellinger, Walter;
conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: Re: Ideological indoctrination by K-12 schools
One of the things the Supreme Court has emphasized in its education
decisions is the "inculcation of democratic values". My former
Kevin Brown has written extensively on "values inculcation" and race,
the premise of a reasoning, educated electorate as important to a
flourishing democracy seems right. I'd much rather have people able to
think critically of claims left and right than to have a bunch of sheep.
And we *all* have an interest in educating children, and in having
participation in democratic discourse, so it just must be that we all
responsibility to educate; if not via government, then by whom/what?
That said, I for one *hated* the Pledge of Allegiance routine as a
was as if it were idolotry on the one hand and inculcation of
obedience on the other. I refused to say the "under God " part but
like I would be "found out" and generally never really spoke, feeling
was somehow "bad' and would be found out for refusing to cooperate
I was a weird kid, but my parents empahsized the horrors of
McCarthyism, and religious orthodoxy at home, so I guess I could blame
and Dad) I would can the whole thing, I don't think it is "harmless"
certainly do not think children escape unaffected.
Does this mean I do not care about the US or that but for thePledge I
----- Original Message -----
From: "Volokh, Eugene" <VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu>
To: "Marty Lederman" <marty.lederman at comcast.net>; "Dellinger, Walter"
<WDellinger at omm.com>; <conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu>
Sent: Sunday, March 28, 2004 1:22 PM
Subject: RE: Ideological indoctrination by K-12 schools
> I agree that the "under God" raises a different issue; I was
to Walter's suggestion that the Pledge is troublesome with or without
> As to the distinction that Marty draws between the Pledge and the
inculcation of racial tolerance, nonviolence, a certain attitude towards
environment, and so on -- I agree that there is such a distinction, but
doubt that it involves that much of a difference. Let's set aside
morning talk shows and focus on kids being compelled to go to school
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
enough; in any event, being strongly discouraged from expressing
attitudes; and often being told that adults who express contrary
are bad people. It doesn't seem to me that being told to engage in a
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,"
Barnette's words, in lots of ways. And that may well be good, for some
the reasons that Frank suggests, or at least good if you're going to
government-run schools. I'm glad that students in many schools are
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
different, but not, I think, that different.
> Marty Lederman writes:
> Yes. But the state every day is in the business of trying to
certain values, beliefs, worldviews. (See, e.g., the Sunday morning
shows that just ended.) I think Walter was getting at something far
troubling than the state simply attempting to "indoctrinate" its
Every morning, the state -- in the form of six-year-olds' most esteemed
trusted mentors and authority figures -- asks students to stand, as a
collective with their closest peers, to place their hands over their
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
of allegiance that reminded Walter of totalitarian regimes -- something
that's a far cry from simply the teaching of the standard public-school
> I would also note that, for better or worse, rightly or wrongly, we
of us, anyway -- and the Court) have come to accept the
public schools "indoctrinat[ing] kids in ideologies" -- at least so long
the students and their families have a right to opt-out (see, e.g.,
This is of a piece with the "government speech" doctrine that permits
state virtually unlimited authority to attempt to win over the hearts
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
to inculcate religious truths, and especially not to do so in the
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
his point 2 -- which as I understand it, is intentionally focused not
on "under God" but on the pledge generally -- doesn't condemn
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
as the Pledge. But it's still inculcated, and quite effectively. I
that many schools both lecture to captive audiences of students about
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
not express opposition, as they are as to saying the Pledge. What's
the very reasons that people have given for why the Pledge isn't really
effective -- it's rote and routine, and thus not taken very seriously --
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
indoctrinate kids in ideologies, such as racial tolerance, love of
and the like that seem useful to making society function more
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
some people have argued in favor of an educational system in which kids
constantly encouraged to challenge and question what they're taught; but
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
to private schools chosen by parents (perhaps with a voucher system
which the government provides the funding but not the message). But
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
> > Eugene
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
<mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu> on behalf of Dellinger,
> > Sent: Sat 3/27/2004 6:32 PM
> > To: 'Levinson'; CONLAWPROF at lists.ucla.edu
<mailto:CONLAWPROF at lists.ucla.edu>
> > Cc:
> > Subject: RE: RE: Meaning of "Under God"
> > (2) Libertarian conservatives, of course, might
> > object to the government setting up a system of having children
> > recite any government scripted message. To them, the footage of
> > the pledge and the footage of Ilian Gonzalez back in Cuba standing
> > reciting a government message might look all too similar. (Of
> > in Cuba dissenting children are shot rather than excused from
> > they are here.) . . .
> > _______________________________________________
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