Merchants of Conflict: Patriot Groups and American Education
In the 1930s, new social programs, the threat of Communism, and the rise of totalitarian governments in Europe fostered the collaboration between business groups, educational groups, and patriot organizations to investigate the way in which "Americanism" and Capitalism were being portrayed in the public schools. One such patriot group was the American Legion, which appointed an Americanism officer at each post to review school curricula and textbooks for anything smacking of anti-Americanism, anti-capitalism, and radical ideas. Specifically, the Legion accused progressive educators of attacking Americanism in four ways: presenting a new interpretation of history in order to cast doubt on the motives of American heroes, shaping opinions that would be favorable to practices of socialism, condemning the American system of private ownership and forming opinions favorable to collectivism, and molding opinions against traditional religious faiths or ideas of morality. The legion was joined in their efforts by other patriot groups, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Ku Klux Klan. In the post-911 world, the American system of education is again under attack from organizations presenting their own definitions of patriotism, and the parallels between the 1930s and the present day are chilling.
Keywords: History of Education, Patriotism
Prof. Rick Gay
Associate Professor of Education, Department of Education, Davidson College