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Fostering Patriotism Is Not Aim of Education

October 06, 2002

Re "The Battle to Win Hearts and Minds Has to Begin at Home," Sept. 26

I could not help but comment on the simple irony embedded in Norah Vincent's op-ed piece on terrorism and "academia's left-lurching views." She fears that young people are at risk to become un-American because their leftist professors at the top universities don't require them to study American history and its best traditions. She takes comfort in President Bush's new initiatives on history education, believing this will engender a pro-American sentiment. She also reports that only about 3% of these subversive professors are even "somewhat conservative," implying that they are, well, un-American.

Wait a minute. Shouldn't these professors be exemplars for both Vincent and for the president's programs? After all, they are, if anything, educated. And if the great majority of these highly educated people--including scholars of American history--are presumably un-American, why would she then assume that a good education leads naturally to her brand of patriotism? Is it possible that higher education may result in the construction of a view of America, its history and its place on the world stage that is more conflicted and complicated than the one possessed by Vincent?

Be careful, Norah: Higher education--learning to think critically, self-reflectively and for oneself--is a powerful, intellectual experience that does not yield to any one, preconceived paradigm of right and wrong, good and evil.

Richard Lettieri

Irvine

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