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Banning Patriotism By: Aaron Hanscom
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In January 2005, a high school in Ijsselstein, Holland, ordered two students to remove patches of the Dutch flag from their backpacks because the administration feared they would provoke Moroccan students. Bans on the Dutch flag were already in place at other Dutch schools. Meanwhile, a headmaster in Sweden sent two schoolgirls home for “wearing sweaters showing a tiny Swedish flag” so as not to offend Muslim students. Plainly, European elites preferred to curtail free speech rather than risk offending unassimilated minority groups. A similar conclusion can now be drawn about American educators.  

Consider the recent decisions by schools in California, Colorado, and Arizona to ban the display of American flags and patriotic clothing. School administrators claim that the bans were put into effect to ease tensions between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students during last month’s immigration protests. Thus Tom Stumpf, the principal of Skyline High School in Colorado and one of the first to institute a ban on the display of flags, explained that “the flags no longer were being used as symbols of patriotism or of cultural heritage, but of ethnic intimidation, harassment and blatant bigotry.”  

But why should students in America feel threatened or insulted by the display of the American flag? After all, they pledge allegiance to it at the start of each school day. The reason seems to have something to do with American educators’ unwillingness to offend the sensitivities of Hispanic students. Conversely, these educators see nothing amiss with encouraging Mexican pride. For instance, upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebrations in schools around the country will feature children dressed in the Mexican colors of red, white and green. Parents were notified of them with letters home written in Spanish.  

Unfortunately, such efforts to promote “multiculturalism” often have an adverse impact on the minority students they are intended to benefit. Elementary school students in the largely Hispanic schools in Los Angeles, where I am a substitute teacher, cannot hum “America the Beautiful” or even distinguish between George Washington and George Bush. Yet they have no problem knowing why some schools are named after union icon Caesar Chavez. By contrast, Hispanic students who gain an appreciation of America are less likely to harbor resentment over its imperfections and to romanticize the countries from which their parents and grandparents sought refuge.  

To encourage American pride, however, is to encourage assimilation -- and assimilation has become a dirty word in American education. The attack on assimilation is grounded in the belief, shared by many academic elites, that the self-esteem they seek for Hispanic students can only be achieved through the celebration of their differences. At the same time, the elites’ lack of self-esteem about being American leads to policies that prevent students from appreciating what they have in common with other Americans. The results are dismaying to behold. As Victor Davis Hanson writes in his book, Mexifornia: A State of Becoming, “the goal of assimilation that was once the standard, if unspoken orthodoxy in our schools and government is now ridiculed as racist and untrue.”  

To be sure, there has been some backlash against the multiculturalists’ agenda. The Oceanside School District in California is a case in point. Recently, the district banned flags and patriotic clothing. That proved to be a mistake, because Oceanside schools educate the children of the men and women serving at nearby Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base. In short order, district superintendent Ken Noonan was inundated with calls from angry parents and residents for imposing the restrictions. Although heavy media attention forced Noonan to eventually lift the ban, he has no regrets about what he did. “I absolutely would do it again to protect kids,” he has said.

Noonan makes a good stand-in for much of the educational establishment because his recent war on patriotism was only one of the many wrongheaded educational stances he has taken over the years. It was Noonan who co-founded the California Association of Bilingual Educators and predicted that the passing of Proposition 227 in 1998, which ended bilingual education in California, would be a disaster. He was singing quite a different tune a few years later after witnessing the dramatic improvement in test scores of California students. “I thought it would hurt kids,” he said. “The exact reverse occurred, totally unexpected by me. The kids began to learn--not pick up, but learn--formal English, oral and written, far more quickly than I ever thought they would.”  

Yet it never occurred to Noonan that encouraging pro-American sentiments would be no less effective in integrating minority students than English immersion has proven to be. Instead, Noonan seemed to subscribe to the condescension of much of the educational establishment: Just as Hispanic students weren’t going to be able to adjust to English in the classroom, today they are supposedly too thin-skinned and unassimilable to handle the sight of an American flag.

Europe’s unquestioned faith in multiculturalism has resulted in the alienation of Muslim immigrants, many of whom feel no ties whatsoever to their adoptive countries. “Eurabia”, once just a feared dystopia wherein Europe would become a colony of the Muslim world, increasingly seems like a reality. Could it be that a similar transformation is taking place in America?  

The answer, regrettably, is yes. Teachers are sometimes afforded a glimpse into the future before the rest of the population. One question I always try to ask students is: "What country do you live in?" It is extremely rare for them to answer correctly the first time. "California" and "Los Angeles" are the most popular responses. Not until I direct their attention to the American flag in the corner of the room and remind them of the Pledge of Allegiance they recited earlier in the day, are they finally able to make the connection. After my students are all made aware of the fact that they live in the United States of America, I ask them to name one of the states in the union. Invariably, "Mexico" is their answer.  

America was once unparalleled in its ability to assimilate immigrants. But today the ideal of a melting pot society is under assault by an American educational establishment that believes in the dogma of multiculturalism above all. As a result, it often seems as if Mexifornia, like Eurabia, is already here.

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Aaron Hanscom is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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