Back to website

American Indoctrination -- The harsh reality of public school

April 22, 2004
by Earth_AD | Special to

Recently, I was invited to speak to a couple of elementary school (5th grade) classes. I've done this for each of the past 3 years, so it was nothing new to me. Generally the experience has been altogether good, even with the usual limitations and obvious uber-conformity practiced in a squeaky-clean public school environment. This year was a bit more disturbing.

I arrived at school a little early, so I went ahead and entered the classroom a few minutes before the bell rang. I observed that unlike last year, this year each classroom was provided with a 27 inch television set, placed at the front of the class on a large metal cart just to the side of the dry-erase board. I thought this a bit odd but not completely unusual.

The TV was tuned to a blue screen with the day's lunch menu displayed upon it. It read as follows:

potato bar
nachos with beef and cheese
freedom fries
fruit salad
strawberry shortcake

Oh, ok, the lunch menu. That's nice.

Wait just a damn minute, did that say "freedom fries?"

Why yes, I do believe it did. Undoubtedly some "patriotic" genius in the school's administration had thought it appropriate to copycat the US congressional menu of "freedom fries/toast" in protest of the French refusal to help in our Iraqi invasion. Teaching absolute obedience to the government is apparently the prime function of the public school system, even down to the friggin lunch menu. Basically I shrugged this off. Though it did offend my libertarian, individualist sensibilities, I know my neighbors well enough to know that this kind of attitude is not unusual. What came next, however, shook me to my shoes.

I was turned away from the TV, sitting at a side table reviewing the notes for my presentation. Suddenly I heard a familiar refrain from the general direction of the TV, poor sound quality but still unmistakable. At that moment each child in the classroom, as well as the teacher and the student teacher all stood in unison and faced the TV.

The tune was the national anthem.

Curious as to what was taking place, I stood as well and faced the TV. Images were being displayed slideshow-style as an especially sappy choral version of the Star Spangled Banner squeaked out of the cheap Wal-Mart TV's monophonic speakers. The content of these images was truly frightening. A few I can remember clearly:

-- an overhead shot of a huge American flag design, done in red, white and blue flowers, in a field near a suburban area

-- the infamous "Iwo Jima" American flag raising at WTC ground zero by the three firefighters

-- various scenes of soldiers

-- a shot of a US Navy aircraft carrier

-- a depiction of two young children (probably 4 or 5) hands clasped in prayer, with the caption "one nation, under GOD" (exactly like that, capitals and all)

-- an ice sculpture of an eagle and a WTC firefighter

-- and finally, last but not least, an embellished image of the WTC aftermath, shot from a distance, with the smoke from the disaster blending into the clouds where the hands of God are apparently reaching down from Heaven.

Folks, I'm not making any of this up. I wish I were.

Then, immediately following that, a scene of the American flag, upon which the kids automatically started in with the pledge of allegiance. After that the kids sat back down and the lunch menu, replete with its freedom fries, reappeared on the idiot box.

Disturbing? I started to get up and walk out the door, but I felt that I owed it to those kids to get up there and say my piece. Still, I was left with the lingering images of that morning ritual. And these kids watch this same slideshow, listen to that same rendering of the national anthem, EVERY DAY.

Indoctrination. Forced conformity. Government worship. A blending of Christianity with "patriotism." The wholesale assembly-line production of jingoistic, unquestioning drones, assaulted at their most impressionable time in life. What's worse, the instrument of their unwitting doom was the unblinking eye, their friendly cathode-ray babysitter, the television which they have been taught to love and never question. 2004, meet 1984.

I can say with certainty that one good thing came from this experience. If I ever needed another reason not to send any future children of mine to public school, I got it this morning.

Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it -- Henry David Thoreau

Earth_AD is a libertarian nonconformist mired in the increasingly socialist trappings of the rural South. He enjoys debating, reading, sports, and minding his own business.

Note: Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided that the article is reprinted in its entirety (including this notice) and proper credit is given to its author and