For the critics of Kaepernick, or for others who believe that effortless gestures are all it takes to call yourself a true American, it might be good to bear in mind that patriotism includes knowing you are free to speak out, to stand, to sit… It also means an obligation to respect the freedom of others to do differently than you. That American ideal of patriotism has more to do with reasoned freedom than indoctrination into blind obedience and symbolic gestures.
More importantly, patriotism can mean the obligation to speak out when you believe our great nation needs to have its course righted.
Kaepernick, therefore, is a true patriot and has demonstrated by word and deed his support for that American ideal of freedoms exercised through reasoning and deed as opposed to a superficial patriotism (e.g. indoctrination through standing, pledging, singing, wearing flag pins…). Of his decision to not stand, he says:
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
So in terms of how I would view student actions regarding patriotic gestures and customs, I say that I teach, I do not indoctrinate. Kaepernick shows more reasoned patriotism than his loudest detractors who are mostly white, some privileged and wealthy, and a few news-commentary loudmouths. My job as a teacher might include a responsibility to show that education through societal influences can include too much indoctrination/blind patriotism and too much avoidance. My responsibility as a patriotic citizen might be to highlight that some of that indoctrination is being cloaked in the language of “education reform.” When schooling begins to narrow in purpose to suit an outside agenda (blind patriotism and obedience/compliance) instead of serve the learner and open possibilities-that’s indoctrination.
Thoreau warned his readers of such forces in his Resistance to Civil Government (later titled Civil Disobedience) when he described the difficulty in efforts of reform when they are often resisted by an almost insurmountable establishment, weakly forwarded by that very establishment, or managed by servants of that establishment who rely on their very livelihood in offering blind, patriotic service. Do you think our nation’s leaders and upper classes should be collaborating to create an economy and class structure that empowers lower classes to work, spend money, invest modestly and be educated to the degree that it would empower reasoned patriotism? Will standing for the National Anthem, singing patriotic songs and wearing flag pins make our nation stronger in ways that it actually needs to be strengthened? Will undermining communities and blaming public education for the decimating conditions of pollution, poverty, crime and income inequity suddenly send all poor kids to college and make good jobs rain down from the sky?
Those lines of questioning are tainted with ideology, agenda, and attempts to indoctrinate. Yes, just by the way you ask a question it indicates “right” or “wrong” answers linked to the goals of the indoctrination. I don’t bother with such inquiries because they deal with conditions that are yet to be, and sidestepping reflection on what is. Poverty is increasing, our nation in it’s politics, policy, and posturing fails us on so many levels. Attempts to right the cause of more responsible and responsive leadership are resisted, and those claiming to be reformers exist as paid agents of the inequity that is.
This isn’t indoctrination, it’s just facts. I teach facts and hope to help educate thinkers. Kaepernick deserves recognition for inspiring others to think. Issues like this can help educate us all if we examine them outside the attempts to indoctrinate.