The Elements of PATRIOTISM
A SPEECH BY DR. MAX RAFFERTY, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION AND DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION, STATE OF CALIFORNIA REPRINTED BY AMERICA’S FUTURE, INC. AS A PUBLIC SERVICE
About three years ago I made a short talk called “the passing of the Patriot”. It wasn’t intended to be in the same class with Daneil Webster’s orations, but it did say some of the things that I have always believed. I was a new superintendent of a new school district at the time, and i wanted folds to know exactly where I stood.
But I found to my surprise that patriotism apparently means different things to different people. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but l was, and during the months and years since 1961, I have not ceased to be surprised. So I’d like to explore the problem of patriotism in our schools a little further.
I suppose it’s some sort of a commentary on our present-day society that we find it necessary to analyze patriotism at all Our grandparents and great-grandparents would have been highly amused or mildly irritated at the idea of taking patriotism apart to see what makes it tick. They took their love of country for granted. And dissecting this feeling of theirs toward their native land would have seemed to our ancestors as useless as trying to analyze a California sunset, or to identify the component parts of mother-love.
Just the same, and regardless of what was needed or not needed in the past, a searching analysis of patriotism seems necessary today. For example, I have always taken for granted absolute loyalty to our country in her relations with other nations, reverence and affection for the great heroes of our American past, and abhorrence of atheistic, dictatorial Communism, which to me has always represented everything which this nation was founded to resist.
In my more than twenty years as a California schoolman, I had given voice to these sentiments many times, to many different audiences, usually to polite applause and a general nodding of heads. But — in that summer of 1961 and since — there was sharp reaction and a flood of response, both favorable and unfavorable.
Some Things We Should Hate
One category of letter-writers thought I was preaching hate,’ and they felt that this was bad Now, I’m not known as a fellow who goes around hating people, but I think we’ d better take a long look at this “hate” business. Some things we should hate. The courts and the law enforcement people hate crime, and I think they are perfectly right.
The Bible tells us to hate sin, and I hope that most of us do. And ever since Patrick Henry, American Patriots have hated despotism.
It seems to me that we are in pretty good company if we go along with Thomas Jefferson, who said solemnly that he had sworn eternal hostility – “hatred,” if you like – to any form of tyranny over the minds and hearts of men.
Because, if totalitarian Communism isn’t an ugly mingling of crime and sin and tyranny, then what in Heaven’s name is it?
I don’t hate individuals, I don’t advocate that our American school children be taught to hate any person. But I do hate totalitarianism in any form. And I may be wrong, But, I think we had better teach our children to hate it too, so that they may not in later life be beguiled and deceived and eventually enchained by a force the evil of which they have never been conditioned to resist.
Another group argued along these lines: “You’re advocating an emotional approach to patriotism. Dr. Rafferty, instead of balancing the issues fairly and presenting dispassionately and logically the arguments on both sides. By appealing to the hearts rather than to the minds of your audience, you are actually doing a disservice to the cause which you are trying to uphold. We want our children to evaluate our form of government logically, to understand fully the abuses as well as the virtues of our society, and to approach the history of the United States as they would
approach a laboratory experiment or a mathematical problem — without bias, without preconceptions, without emotion”
This is a serious comment on the problem of teaching patriotism in the schools, and it deserves a serious answer; Let’s look for a few moments at what seem to me to be three possible approaches to the problem:
Patriotism Is an Emotion
First — since some people don’t seem to like it — let’s discuss the emotional approach. Emotion, of course, is a hard thing to analyze scientifically. Such basic human feelings as love and hate resist a logical examination. And patriotism, whether we like it or not, is exactly that — an emotion. When we discuss it, we are almost compelled to do so from an emotional standpoint, and for obvious reasons.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t think about patriotism. We can and we should. But I think we should also feel our patriotism. There is nothing wrong with an emotional approach to an emotion. After all, most of us use our emotions far more than we do our intellects, and this is not necessarily either bad or good. It depends upon the nature of the problem which confronts us.
For example, how many of you studied and analyzed and thoroughly understood your wives before you married them? Few of you, I would guess, i’ve been married for twenty years, and I’d hate to have to prove that I understand my wife, even today. No, for most of us, and quite naturally, love came first – then, much later, some sort of understanding. You had to love your wife in order to become interested enough in her to try to get a balanced, reasoned understanding of her background, personality, and temperament.
Love Comes First
If this is true of our most sacred family relationship, why not of patriotism also? The child should be taught first to love his country so that, later on in his education, he will have a motive strong enough to spur him on to understand her. Without the burning interest generated by love for a wonderful country, boys and girls may approach American history and civics as dull subjects. They may drag their feet half-heartedly, go through the motions with no enthusiasm, and finally graduate from high school with little interest in or knowledge of their native land.
The emotional approach to Americanism includes most of the grand old stories which you and I remember so fondly from our childhood: Ben Franklin and his famous pun about hanging together or hanging separately —Lawrence carried dying from his shattered deck, rallying long enough to give the U. S. Navy its deathless slogan: “Don’t give up the ship!” — Sam Houston at San Jacinto, reminding enemy dictators for all time to come that Americans would forget attempts to enslave them only when Texans forget the Alamo — these and a hundred more great stories cluster about our history’, buhyarking and supporting it, mingling in a Red, White, and Blue mist, clamorous with voices out of our past, dramatizing American history and American institutions so that wide-eyed children may always remember. Is it wrong — can it be wrong — to generate love in the hearts of our children for these tuneless tales which are part of the warp and woof of our free country?
. . . Then Admiration
Admiration is another emotion, and I propose that we reapply it to our great heroes. For several decades now, it has been the fashion to debunk the leaders of long ago. It’s easy, of course, to tear down anyone. Stress the weaknesses, the frailties to which all flesh is heir. Tell the people that America has really never had any heroes — just ordinary fellows like you and me, out for what they could get, propelled aimlessly by circumstances, possessing no burning love of country nor passion for liberty.
It has been said in recent months by a high appointed official of California that the idea of America being “sacred soil” is a lot of “paranoiac patriotism”. I am sure that to this gentleman the soil of his native land is not sacred, that it is just dirt, no different from the soil of any other land.
This is the privilege.
But I want to make my own position crystal clear. America’s soil is sacred to me. It was sacred to Patrick Henry and to Francis Scott Key, to Nathan Hale and Douglas Mac-Arthur. It is soil watered, as Jefferson said, with the blood of patriots , and hallowed with the sacrifice of generations of American dead. It is soil unique in all this world, because among the thronging nations of our planet, it alone has never tolerated tyranny, in any form and under any disguise.
“”There was a poem once, memorized by every school child in the land, which started out:
•The breaking waves dashed high
On a stem and rockbound coast . . .It was called “The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers,” and it ended with these lines: “Ay, call it holy ground. The soil where first they trod! They have left unchanged what there they found —
Freedom to worship God.”
This is what America meant to the men and women who carved out of a primeval wilderness this land of promise, this magnet which has drawn to its shores the lovers of freedom from every clime under the sun. To them it was indeed, and in the most profound sense, holy ground — sacred soil.
|Have we changed so greatly within the last generation, we Americans? Are we incapable any longer of loving above all others this, our own “sweet land of liberty”? I refuse to believe it.|
The Future Rests With the Schools
The schools of America are the hope of America—the “last, best hope of men on earth.” To those of us in Education, into whose keeping has been entrusted the whole future of our people, the great, soul-shaking opportunity has been given to assist, with God’s grace, in the saving of our country. For almost two centuries, the teachers of the United States of America have kept the American Heritage intact, passing it from one generation to another as a rich legacy. What we have done before, we can do again.
From beneath our countless classroom desks have passed in times gone by the same feet which plodded through the mud of the Argonne and waded ashore in the bloody battle of two Jima.
From the gymnasiums of Americans schools have come the strong, young bodies which fought and won at San Juan Hill and Tarawa, Seoul and Belleau Wood. From the pencils and paper of our crowded classes have germinated words and thoughts destined to burgeon in time of need into great instruments for saving and for inspiration –Atlantic Charters and Four Freedoms.
From the test tubes and retorts of innumerable school laboratories have sprung, over the years, the questionings and imaginings which culminated n the electric light, the telegraph, the protean triumphs of plastics, and the ultimate marvel of thermonuclear energy.
|This. then, is no time for tame surrender to those among us who would tamper with the dearly bought birthright of our people, sneering and belittling with “silent smiles of slow disparagement.” It is. instead, a time for all of us—both educators and the friends of Education – to stand to our guns—the friends of Education—to tell America not what she wants to hear but, what is good and true and right for her to hear—to tell her not only what we have done for her in the past, but what we are prepared yet to do.|
Some of the things which we have done were vain and foolish but there is much more of which we should be very proud.
In the past, it has been the children taught by our predecessors who built out of a raw and savage continent this nation which it is our happy privilege to defend and to love. In the years which lie ahead, it will be the boys and girls now listening to our words who will use old Earth itself as but a footstool, and who will unfurl upon the outer worlds of space the banner of the Great Republic.
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