As mentioned in the previous post, my daughter has been asked to write an essay about why she loves America. To begin with, the issue isn’t patriotism, it’s anti-intellectualism. Rhetorically, this is the same as being as to write an essay on "why I am a Yankees fan." Is it possible that someone might not love America? Is the intention here to teach our children than not loving America is some kind of Lyotardian differend, an unspeakable phrase?
Anyway, when my daughter says she doesn’t love America, she isn’t making some anti-American political statement. She is partly expressing a philosophical position–saying it is not possible to feel "love" for an abstraction. She is also expressing some eight-year idealism: she loves the world. Now those might seem contradictory positions, except the world is not an abstraction. As is not unusual for an eight-year old, she wants peace; she loves animals and the environment; she doesn’t understand why other kids around the world have to suffer. Just b/c she doesn’t want to wave the flag and shout "America is #1!" doesn’t mean that she doesn’t value democracy and freedom. Not to put a fine point on it, but I don’t think there are many eight year-olds (or 38 year olds) who can articulate what democracy and freedom actually might be.
But of course the unsurprising conclusion of this episode is that when she expresses her position to her classmates, they suggest that she ought to move. Clearly they have already adopted the "America, love it or leave it" philosophy. The assignment has been successful in reinforcing the notion that not-loving America is not an option.
One more victory for "critical thinking" and literacy in public schooling.