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Patriotic Education in a Global Age

Should schools attempt to cultivate patriotism? If so, why? And what conception of patriotism should drive those efforts? Is patriotism essential to preserving national unity, sustaining vigorous commitment to just institutions, or motivating national service? Are the hazards of patriotism so great as to overshadow its potential benefits? Is there a genuinely virtuous form of patriotism that societies and schools should strive to cultivate?
In Patriotic Education in a Global Age, philosopher Randall Curren and historian Charles Dorn address these questions as they seek to understand what role patriotism might legitimately play in schools as an aspect of civic education. They trace the aims and rationales that have guided the inculcation of patriotism in American schools over the years, the methods by which schools have sought to cultivate patriotism, and the conceptions of patriotism at work in those aims, rationales, and methods. They then examine what those conceptions mean for justice, education, and human flourishing. Though the history of attempts to cultivate patriotism in schools offers both positive and cautionary lessons, Curren and Dorn ultimately argue that a civic education organized around three components of civic virtue—intelligence, friendship, and competence—and an inclusive and enabling school community can contribute to the development of a virtuous form of patriotism that is compatible with equal citizenship, reasoned dissent, global justice, and devotion to the health of democratic institutions and the natural environment. Patriotic Education in a Global Age mounts a spirited defense of democratic institutions as it situates an understanding of patriotism in the context of nationalist, populist, and authoritarian movements in the United States and Europe, and will be of interest to anyone concerned about polarization in public life and the future of democracy.


"The fifth entry in the History and Philosophy of Education Series from the University of Chicago Press maintains the impressively high standard set by its predecessors. . . . The authors write with elegance and authority: their history of patriotism in schools is masterful and their general theory of education largely compelling. Like its sister volumes, Patriotic Education in a Global Age stands as a powerful testament to the value of collaboration between historians and philosophers."

Theory and Research in Education

"Unique in that it is the product of a seven-year collaboration between a historian and a philosopher that investigated the intersections between patriotism and civic education, and it employs previously ignored findings from motivation research to support the authors’ arguments for patriotic education. . . . The historical examples they discuss are appropriate and interesting, their reasoning and investigation is systematic, thorough, and rigorous, and they have drawn on relevant philosophical and psychological theories to guide their inquiry. . . . Drawing from diverse disciplines including history, philosophy, psychology, and education, Curren and Dorn provide an insightful account of the aims, rationales, methods, and conceptions that have been featured in US patriotic education."

Historical Studies in Education

"By articulating a new conception of virtuous patriotism and by emphasizing the importance of civic virtues, such as civic intelligence and civic friendship, for human flourishing, Curren and Dorn make an important new contribution to our  understanding of the nature and the promise of education for virtuous civic engagement. . . . Particularly compelling about Curren and Dorn’s vision of patriotic education is their respect for diversity and dissent, their appreciation of the value of autonomy, creativity, and critical thinking. . . . Another particularly valuable aspect of Patriotic Education in a Global Age is the interdisciplinarity of Curren and Dorn’s approach—the novel way in which they bring together insights from history, philosophy and psychology to forge a single perspective on patriotic education that draws on the resources of all these disciplines."

Natalia Rogach | Studies in Philosophy and Education

"An unflinching analysis of one of the more enduring and vexing tensions of education in the contemporary moment. Namely, in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, what sense can be made of a civic education that endorses patriotism? . . . Curren and Dorn address this concern with an impartiality and rigor that marks this project as a true exploration. In their book, they provide a historical context of patriotism in civic education in the US alongside a normative philosophical analysis of the general aims of civic education, ultimately arguing that a nuanced patriotism deserves a presence within and through the pursuit of these aims. . . . Curren and Dorn deserve real praise for the fine accomplishment of this book. Their sensitivity to hard questions of a difficult history (especially so in its potential relative to race and immigrant status) of political education in the US serves them well in constructing a compelling theory of civic virtue, virtuous patriotism, and global virtuous patriotism as these impact educational efforts. To my mind, this courageous book initiates a welcome new chapter in an impressively timely and urgent conversation."

Winston C. Thompson | Studies in Philosophy and Education

"This is a book with a golden glow, of first-rate intellectual quality, with the optimism and hope couched in a tolerant democratic liberalism that has been so often seen as the hallmark of what counts as American scholarship, too frequently described as the property of the ‘Western liberal elite’. . . . Informative, important and interesting."

Hugh Sockett | Studies in Philosophy and Education

“The received wisdom about patriotism in virtue-ethics and civic-education circles is that it is at best anachronistic; at worst a retrograde and flawed virtue. This fascinating study dispels the received wisdom through an argument that draws on rich historical, philosophical, psychological, and educational sources. The book develops an account of virtuous patriotism, answerable to moral standards that transcend, and sometimes override, a country’s ideals. This compelling account is of a demilitarized, demythologized virtue that allows for dissent and involves moral motivation and good judgment. The authors delineate civic intelligence, civic friendship, and civic competence as components of civic virtue and end up proposing nothing less than a comprehensive theory of civic education. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in civic education–and bold enough to be ready to give patriotism a second hearing.”

Kristján Kristjánsson, Professor of Character Education and Virtue Ethics, University of Birmingham, U.K.

“A compelling vision of how a virtuous patriotism might be taught within a framework of liberal globalism. It combines excellent historical and philosophical scholarship in the service of a vision of what a virtuous patriotic education might look like. Although it concentrates on America, its commitments and viewpoint have ready general application and will also be appreciated by those outside the United States.”

Dave Archard, Queen’s University, Belfast

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
One / Americanizing Curricula
Two / Heroes and Rituals
Three / Militarizing Schools, Mobilizing Students
Four / The Education We Need
Five / Cultivating Civic Virtue
Six / Global Civic Education
Conclusion: Realizing America in a Global Age

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