Jen: Patriotism, Pedagogy, and Freedom: On the Educational Meanings of September 11
In this article, Apple argues that in the wake of the tragedy of September 11th, as a teacher and a U.S. citizen, it is important to do two things. The first is to create space to express anger, sadness, and frustration about the attack and what happened to our country. The second is to ask critical questions about why people in the world had such negative feelings towards the United States (Apple, p. 491). Apple poses some serious questions about approaching the latter without justifying the attacks. Apple asks, “How could one condemn the murderous events, give one’s students a historical and political framework that puts these events in their larger critical context, and provide a serious forum where disagreement and debate could go on fruitfully…and at the same time not be seen as justifying the attacks” (Apple, p. 493). I agree with Apple that these are very tricky questions to ask in the wake of such a tragedy. However, I also think they are important to ask because the answers prevent people from developing generalizations that link all people from the Middle East to the mindset of those that committed the attacks on the Twin Towers.
Apple’s idea of giving students space to vent should be the first step. After they have a chance to get their frustrations out, I think a very common question that many students will ask is “Why do they hate us?” I think the only way this question can be answered is by looking at the historical relationships between countries and U.S. foreign policy. This promotes more of an accurate of understanding of what Apple is trying to get at- “to ask critical questions about why people in the world had such negative feelings towards the United States” (Apple, p. 491).
One particular part of Apple’s article that I found interesting was when he talked about the school board in Wisconsin that came under criticism for only allowing the instrumental version of the Star Spangled Banner to be played because they felt playing an anthem with lines such as “bombs bursting in air” might not be appropriate after the attacks on September 11th. This came under criticism as being unpatriotic, so eventually the board decided to allow each individual community to make the choice whether to play the anthem with the actual words or just the instrumental version. Apple said, “This decision defused the controversy in a way that has a long history in the United States. Local decisions will prevail, but there is not guarantee that the decisions at each local school will uphold a vision of thick democracy that welcomes dissent as itself a form of patriotic commitment” (Apple, p. 497). I agree with Apple that this mentality has a long history in the United States. For a long time, the term “states’ rights” was used as a cover for states that wanted to continue slavery and that if the government abolished slavery, it would intrude on “states’ rights.” In this case, states’ rights were used in a way that did not uphold democracy and human rights.
I agree with Apple that the best way to show patriotism and commitment to your nation is to critically think about and question what is going on (Apple, p. 497). Those that truly love their country want to hold it to high standards and make sure it is a place where people are truly treated equally.