Chapter One traces the history of patriotic curricula in American public schools from the mid-nineteenth century through the beginning of the twenty-first. Teachers initially maintained social and cultural assimilation as the central goal of three areas of the school curriculum: English language instruction, civics, and social studies (including history and economics). Over time, tensions over this goal emerged, manifested in such questions as: “Should schools seek to celebrate unity or diversity?” and “Do immigrants bring “cultural gifts” that strengthen democratic society? Civics and history texts reflected these shifting priorities; the New England Primer was popular in the early nineteenth century, while Harold Rugg’s Social Science Pamphlets were targets of reactionary anxiety in the twentieth. Later, during the Civil Rights era, groups previously excluded from the story of America, including African-Americans and women, demanded that their experiences be incorporated into triumphalist histories. Consequently, traditional texts were infused by “people’s” and “multicultural” histories. More recently, charter schools have adopted civic engagement, military training, and/or national security as central to their curricular programs, ushering in new forms of patriotic education.
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