Teaching Patriotism: Love and Critical Freedom

Martha C. Nussbaum

Teaching patriotism involves many dangers: the danger that inappropriate values will thereby be taught; the danger that students will be dragooned into patriotic performances in violation of their conscience; and the danger that such teaching will emphasize solidarity and blunt the critical faculties. On the other hand, there are reasons to think that we need patriotic emotion to motivate projects that require transcending self-interest.

After discussing and illustrating the dangers and making a case for patriotism's value, I shall give examples from both U. S. and Indian history of politicians who were able to construct a form of patriotism that steered successfully through the narrow strait: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, and Jawaharlal Nehru. After examining key examples of their achievements, I shall ask how a patriotism of their type might be taught in schools, and how considerations of both content and pedagogy are relevant to its success.