Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Inappropriate inculcation

And while we're on the subject of schools, one of the criteria for a private school to be considered efficient caught my eye. In order to be registered, private schools or proposed private schools must meet basic teaching standards, have suitable staff and a suitable curriculum, and provide an education no worse that that of a comparable state school. But they must also

Provid[e] suitably for the inculcation in the minds of students of sentiments of patriotism and loyalty

This sort of jingoistic crap belongs more in the era of Bill Massey, and simply has no place in modern, liberal New Zealand. Isn't it time for it to go?


Oh. My. God.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/23/2006 09:30:00 AM

Whats the problem here? Patriotism and loyalty may be concepts out of kilter with the guffawing intellectual snobbery of our academic elites and the sneering trans-national ideology of our pluotcrats, but I don't have a problem with fostering pride and loyalty in being a New Zealander. As New Zealanders we should be proud of our country and comfortable with fostering patriotic loyalty to our homeland. Its up to us - no one will do it for us - As an event promoter once said to me, "If I don't 100% believe in the gig, no one else will."

Posted by Sanctuary : 8/23/2006 11:05:00 AM

While we're at it, how about s. 162 of the Education Act 1964, which requires all teachers to take the oath of allegiance? Public schools may not hire anyone who has not sworn the oath, and private schools are subject to fines of up to $100 for doing so.

This provision further requires any teacher who is not a New Zealand citizen to swear an affirmation that "he will not, directly or indirectly, use words or be concerned in any act which would be disloyal to Her Majesty if those words were spoken or written."

Posted by dc_red : 8/23/2006 11:59:00 AM

Don't tell me what I should be "proud" of Sanctuary. It's none of your damn business.

There are certain aspects of NZ that I'm proud of and certain aspects I'm not. I judge these things on merit. Nothing more nothing less.

Anyone who tells me I should be patriotic and loyal because it's good for the country can kiss my ass. Such "patriotism," as far as I can tell, creates docile arrogant people who conflate pride in their country with unquestioning belief in their government.

I'm no guffawing intellectual academic elite, nor snob, nor a pluotcrat with a trans-national ideology.

My allegiance is to the human family and my home, planet earth. You want to call me names for that, go ahead. It just makes you out to be a bitter prick stuck in an age that can't see outside the square of the nation state system.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/23/2006 12:14:00 PM

I'm with (an albeit toned-down version) of Anthony.

A small minority of people who've actually emigrated to NZ have taken an actual action in which they may wish to be proud.
For the vast majority of Kiwis, citizenship is a (happy) accident of birth - how can one take pride in an accident? The percentage of people who're deeply interested in the history, politics (beyond simple partisanship) and active creation of future NZ is (from my experience of the people I meet in conversation) fairly small.
Fair enough if people are *happy* they're a kiwi but the chest-swelling pride thing is a two-edged sword that is at it's heart simple tribalism.. And I'm not convinced the world needs a whole lot more tribalism right now..

Posted by Anonymous : 8/23/2006 01:39:00 PM

Actually Anthony your comments are fairly typical of a sort of cultural cringe that is common in this country. I think that is because before 1973 our elite was Britsh in perspective, with a contempt of the "inferior" and "common" local culture and now our current elites are children of the post Vietnam anti-war generation which for its own reasons suffers from an acute phobia to showing pride in the nation. The sum total is that unlike every other nation on earth, in this country to say (like I happily do) that you are unequivocally a loyal and patriotic citizen is regarded with unalloyed contempt by foolish people like yourself. Why do I call you foolish? Because to me, only a foolish person would confuse loyalty and patriotic sentiment with uncritical adulation of the homeland. Being patriotic does not automatically make one a rabid Serbian-style nationalist any more than a mild belief in the after life automatically makes you an intolerant bible thumping follower of Pat Robertson. The nation state I live in has been good to me. It is the land of my forebears and hopefully the land of my children. Many of them have fought in this countries name I feel a patriotic duty to the past and to the future to be a loyal steward of the nations affairs. If you feel so rootless as to not feel a duty of loyalty to the nation that you come from thats your loss. But for me, this is my homeland and I am inordinately fond of it.

Its important to me we confront our deeply ingrained fear of being patriotic about our country and being proud of our achievements as a people. To me, this ingrained fear translates into an appallingly defeatist undertone in our national political and social debate.IBecause we are not permitted to take pride in ourselves and enjoy the unity of our people, we instead seek to make ourselves miserable by constantly looking for external measurements of our failure.

Finally - Insofar as being stuck in "the square of the nation state system" have a look at the alternatives - such as globalised undemocratic corporations and trans-national theocracies - and tell me the democratic nation state isn't still the delivery mechanism for freedom their is. Be careful what future you wish for, it may come true.

Posted by Sanctuary : 8/23/2006 01:57:00 PM

I think it's the use of inculcation here that's strange. Frequent repitition? Indoctrination? Teach critical thinking and openmindedness. If NZ deserves patriotism and loyalty, it will follow without inculcation.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/23/2006 02:08:00 PM

Should schools teach "citizenship" then? If so, what topics would this cover?

I ask, because I attended a citizenship ceremony a few weeks ago and was impressed with how it was run and the message of peoples' rights *and* obligations. An experience most of us miss, I would guess.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/23/2006 03:29:00 PM

Sanctuary said: "this is my homeland and I am inordinately fond of it."
Because that's what you were taught in school?
Somehow I doubt it. More likely, you benefited from an education system that encouraged you to draw your own conclusions. Somehow this inordinate fondness of yours doesn't appear to extend to a faith in your fellow citizens being able to think for themselves.

The clause is a jingoistic anachronism - I mean, whose concept of patriotism exactly? Give it the flick.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/23/2006 03:31:00 PM

"The nation state I live in has been good to me. It is the land of my forebears and hopefully the land of my children. Many of them have fought in this countries name I feel a patriotic duty to the past and to the future to be a loyal steward of the nations affairs. If you feel so rootless as to not feel a duty of loyalty to the nation that you come from thats your loss. But for me, this is my homeland and I am inordinately fond of it."

Sanctuary - what you describe are feelings of affection, loyalty and responsibility. I'm very happy to see people grow up with these (particularly the responsibility part). But one can have these feelings without being a "patriot".

Moreover, "patriotism" as frequently practised comes bundled with attitudes of superiority and blind, unquestioning loyalty. I want kids to grow up feeling and being responsible, not programmed to react at every perceived slight.
The old "salute the flag" rah rah breeds patriotism, not responsibility.. I don't see a useful place for it in NZ.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/23/2006 03:41:00 PM

Sanctuary, while this country may well have been "good for you" and inspires in you feelings of great patriotism, others may feel differently for perfectly valid reasons (and they don't need schools to tell them, or their children, otherwise).

Most of us, I suspect, could draw up rather personalized lists of pros and cons of living in New Zealand. Again, we don't need schools to pretend there are only pros.

Finally, many New Zealanders probably associate overt displays of "patriotic loyalty to homeland" with the United States, and perceive that is has some significant negative repercussions.

Even locally, our soft cultural nationalism can grate sometimes: such as the association of being a proud new zealander with being obsessed with the all blacks.

Posted by dc_red : 8/23/2006 04:24:00 PM

At risk of labouring the point, I realise there is also quite a difference between "taking pride in" (say in one's appearance) and "being proud of". The former implies an effortful maintenance, whereas the latter can be simply vanity.
Patriotic pride seems to come in both sorts as well (with the latter being easier to foment as it requires less effort on the part of the patriot..)

Posted by Anonymous : 8/23/2006 05:12:00 PM

Re: the Oath of Allegiance
That's a legal, but not strictly practical, requirement. I had a high-school English teacher who took great pride in not having done so.

He was told, on graduation, that he had to do it, refused, and was then given 48 hours to think it over before the formal graduation, but it was never mentioned again. So it seems anybody who doesn't want to swear is able to avoid it fairly easily. Having the requirement in law is still a problem though.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/23/2006 09:07:00 PM

Sanctuary: I think Anthony said it best. For those who want a more intellectual version, ideas and beliefs should stand or fall on their own merits. If pride in New Zealand is worth having, then it does not need to fostered. Conversely, if it needs to be fostered, then it doesn't deserve to be.

Trouble: well, you'd think that - but this bill was passed in 1989. Possibly they just carried things over from a previous version, but there's no reference to it (as there is for example in the Crimes Act and Electoral Act).

DC_Red: We have Hatty Weitzel to thank for that one, I'm afraid. And yes, it needs to go too.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/23/2006 10:58:00 PM

If people feel patriotic, more power to them. If not, that's fair too. But having a go at them for having/lacking patriotism isn't on. There are any number of reasons you might like or dislike the country of your birth. I've lived and worked in three countries now, and find things I love and loath about each of them.


Posted by Anonymous : 8/24/2006 12:35:00 AM

A query for those - anthony and i/s among them - pushing the "strictly according to merit" account of love for country: do you think relations to family members should work the same way, i.e., do you similarly guffaw at the very idea that anyone should love their parents despite all their failings, and regardless of their merit (assuming some basic thresholds of decent treatment have been met)? If you don't, why not? (And how do you propose to justify cutting your family slack that you won't grant your country?) If you do, how does that work out for you? Seriously. (I find it hard to even imagine.)

I think most people distinguish fairly sharply between the unchosen parts of their lives and the parts that are chosen. Family and country belong in the former group and strike them as individually expressive in a different way than their chosen, broadly rationally-scrutinized stuff - friends, lovers, careers, music collections, and so on. What are you guys saying about all that?

Posted by Anonymous : 8/25/2006 01:55:00 AM

Stephen: I'd say that the idea that your country is akin to your family similarly belongs back in the age of Bill Massey.

Where you happen to be born is unchosen. What you believe shouldn't be. People's freedom of thought, conscience, and belief is absolute, and should not be interfered with by the state - particularly where it is so obviously self-serving and open to abuse, as in the case of inculcating patriotism.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/25/2006 02:24:00 AM

Two things about this thread bother me. The first is I/S 's meally mouthed endorsement of Anthony's comments, gutless because while I/S considers himself above such things he is perfectly happy to endorse it in others., Still, whilst it rankles, one can forgive the odd bit of hypocrisy. The second and more substantive thing that bothers me is the likes of I/S and other like to rear up on their hind legs and condemn in the most forthright terms the dangers of exceptionalism - be it from George W Bush or Federated Farmers - and issue lofty pronouncements on the moral superiority of the left. And yet. What left might that actually be? Well, if you take a single issue that actually affects their lives, where a call is made to a sense of duty based on family and place and community and country, they react with the vitriol of Rush Limbaugh to defend their right to absolute and unfettered individual sovereignty. Some socialists! Some left wingers! Perhaps all we really have here is a bunch of bourgeoise exceptionalists, people who preach community but do not wish to have their choices freedom of action in any way bound by it.

Posted by Sanctuary : 8/25/2006 08:46:00 AM

Sanctuary: firstly, there's nothing "mealy-mouthed" about it. I'm entirely with Anthony in saying that whether people love their country or not is their own business, and no business of the government or other people - and anyone who thinks I should share their patriotic fervour (or worse, be made to) can indeed kiss my arse.

As for the accusation of "exceptionalism", I've never appealed to "community" or "solidarity" to justify and ground my left-wing views. Rather, my left-wing brand of liberalism is
founded squarely on individualism and a desire to maximise people's real and practical personal autonomy and free them to live the sorts of lives they choose. Social democratic policies are IMHO the best way of doing this in a fair and equitable manner.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/25/2006 09:54:00 AM

And to get right to the heart of the problem: post-enlightenment political theory is founded on the very simple idea that there is no authority without consent. It follows that there is no "duty" either. Inculcating "patriotism and loyalty", or thinking that there is a duty based on an accident of birth, makes an absolute mockery of this notion.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/25/2006 09:59:00 AM

"It follows that there is no "duty" either."

I believe I have duties that I haven't chosen. (I also have duties that I have chosen, such as being a wife and mother.)

I have a duty of care to my family, especially my mother - dad's dead so that ends that. I think I have a duty to love my neighbour, both in a very practical literal way, and also in a more general fashion, say driving safely or stopping to help someone. I think I have a duty to obey the country's laws. To vote and to be an interested and informed citizen. To sit on a jury if I was wanted.

I don't really feel a duty to be patriotic, but I am patriotic anyway. I love New Zealand, although if our Government became twisted in say the way Germany did in the 30's then my patriotism would definitely shift.

I feel a duty to the environment and to the poor, not just New Zealand but to the global situation.

This isn't an exaustive list or anything, just some musings.

Posted by Muerk : 8/25/2006 10:51:00 AM

Ideas and beliefs should stand or fall on their own merits. If pride in New Zealand is worth having, then it does not need to fostered. Conversely, if it needs to be fostered, then it doesn't deserve to be.

I disagree with this. We all understand that positive attitudes toward themselves need to be fostered in children. It's not enough to simply say "those who deserve it will feel good about themselves". Doesn't the same principle apply towards families, communities and that larger community which is New Zealand? It's possible to feel pride in being a New Zealander without being contemptuous of other countries, or being blindly loyal to the government (in fact, true patriotism sometimes means the exact opposite). Also, I'd question whether somebody who feels no special attachment or loyalty to their own people really has any love for the human race as a whole.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/25/2006 12:35:00 PM

Muerk: Note that I was talking about political theory, not ethics (and yes, I know the two shade into one another). People have all sorts of duties stemming from their relationships and moral beliefs, but that's not what's at issue here.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/25/2006 01:13:00 PM

Peter: I don't think the same principle applies at all, for the simple reason that a country, family etc is not a person, and has no relevant psychological states to be concerned with.

I should also point out that there is an easy way for government to "foster" pride and loyalty in a way that does not involve propagandising children or infringing people's freedom of conscience and belief: be the sort of country people want to be proud of. And I don't think New Zealand does too badly on that front at all.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/25/2006 01:17:00 PM


Oh, okay, my bad. Sorry.

Posted by Muerk : 8/25/2006 01:29:00 PM

I/S, you misunderstand. Of course families and communities don't have psychological states, but their individual members do. Generally, it's a good thing for the members of a family to feel positive towards the other members/the family itself. When this doesn't happen, there is a problem which needs to be addressed. I'm simply saying that the same thing applies on a larger scale.

As to your second point: I agree that the best way to foster pride in one's country is for it to be the sort of country people will naturally be proud of, but there are many other things which supplement this: knowing your people's history, achievements, culture and so on. Minorities understand this, that's why they teach these things to their children- because they don't expect schools in their host country to do it for them. They expect their children to be proud of who they are, and don't leave it to chance. I expect in most cases they would be surprised if native-born New Zealanders thought differently.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/25/2006 01:45:00 PM

Peter: feeling positive towards your fellow citizens (and e.g. accepting that they are your fellow citizens) is quite a different thing from pride in your country.

And I agree, its good for people to know their history. But I do not think that a school history curriculum should focus on promoting national pride, because that inevitably results in distortion. For example, the facts about the NZ government's treatment of Maori in the 19th century are nothing to be proud of, and should provoke revulsion in any reasonable person. But those aren't facts we can gloss over or stick a "patriotic" slant on, because they are vitally important to understanding how we came to be the country we are today and some of the political battles we are still fighting over the issue (and arguably, one source of current problems is that in the past, schools did gloss over these facts, leading to generations of people who have no understanding of why the Treaty of Waitangi is even an issue, and who thought that we had "the best race relations in the world". The lies of the past have created problems in the present).

Countries inevitably have dirty secrets and periods in their past they would rather forget, and I think these should be presented honestly, so that people can judge for themselves (and judge whether the present regime has improved or not), rather than being sugar-coated or ignored.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/25/2006 02:07:00 PM

I guess it comes down to what exactly is meant by national pride, and how it's fostered. I think it can be a positive thing (certainly preferrable to the defeatism and cultural cringe which some people display- the right more than the left, it seems to me. Perhaps left-wing people are more likely to think that New Zealand has things to be proud of?)

It shouldn't be necessary to gloss over those less glorious times in our history. In fact, if we are able to face up to them honestly and deal with the results as best we can, rather than sweeping them under the carpet as some other countries choose to, isn't that something we can take pride on?

Posted by Anonymous : 8/25/2006 04:03:00 PM

Stephen: I'd say that the idea that your country is akin to your family similarly belongs back in the age of Bill Massey.

Yes I know you think that, but on what grounds?

Where you happen to be born is unchosen. What you believe shouldn't be.

Right... you don't choose your family and you don't choose the country where you spend the first 20 years of your life.

They're the same that way - they're both part of you, make you what you are, and belief has relatively little to do with either of them - the original "inculcation" remark was about sentiments for this reason I believe. You can reject both, disown both as you achieve wider perspectives, and betray both. And "Get the f*** out, you ungrateful wretch" can rightly apply in both cases.

There are differences... one's loyalty to parents (and their loyalty to you) is in some important sense less objective than one's loyalty to country (and its to you) but I don't think that's a difference that makes a diffrence - they're still clearly on the unchosen side of the ledger and very important because of it.
Both are largely non-rational attachments, hence their importance to many people (so much of the rest of ones life is importantly self-constructed - this stuff stands out: "weighs one down" is a common remark). The question is why you think that one non-rational attachment is legtimate and to be fostered and not the other (if that's what you do think). Your family may not have to *convince* you - appeal to your reason - to love them by "being the sort of family someone would want to be proud of" because part of their role is to be a locus of highly partial judgment of you... but that your country always has a place for you/has to take you in if the shit hits the fan elsewhere for you would apear to indicate that there's a parallel if not as extreme sort of partiality in the country case too, hence that the "being the sort of country someone would want to be proud of" line of thought doesn't exhaust everything in that case either.

Finally everyone should be aware that i/s's extraordinary remarks about duty are *not* part of any standard liberal political theory - everybody from Locke through to Rawls thinks there are political duties (e.g. to obey the law, to show up for required military service, to promote just insitutions, etc.) as well as obligations (commitments you have in virtue of your consent). All the great liberal individual theorists in fact take this to be a challenge for their heavily-consent-based theories and concede that it would be a reductio of their liberal individulisms if they could not give an account of these duties. It is therefore doubly mindtwistingly horrible to read i/s (i)present herself as a champion of (post-)enlightment liberal individualism and then (ii) deny that there are any duties (to obey the law etc.).

People's freedom of thought, conscience, and belief is absolute, and should not be interfered with by the state - particularly where it is so obviously self-serving and open to abuse, as in the case of inculcating patriotism.

I'm sorry, you seem very dim here.... Love for country like love for family or love for self for that matter has almost nothing to do with doctrines or beliefs (it doesn't have much to with "love" either insofar as that is thought of as essentially being routed through your choices and reason). That's the point...

So... I invite you to have another go at explaining yourself without the huffing and puffing and without making obvious errors.

[Oh, and Peter's basically right and (the redoubtable) Muerk gave up too easily! And Sanctuary is right about the general charge of incoherency floating around here... but it's ticklish to characterize exactly what the problem is I think - I've tried a few times but it's slippery...]

Posted by Anonymous : 8/25/2006 06:15:00 PM

Stephen is right.
the country has a right to take action to encourage the people inside of it to view eachother and the state itself positively.
To deny that would be to deny social structure entirely.

The government should not lie in order to do that, but along the lines of what peter says we don't have a "call a fat kid fat" campaign either. One would also think that NZ is a country worth having some pride in relative to most other countries.

also "there is no authority without consent" is a deeply flawed philosophy in the way i/s seems to apply it. the state needs only the most general sort of consent to protect citizens from crime or change interest policy not some sort of unanimous approval of all of the people effected. If the peopel vote against patriotism then that is their call but they COULD vote in favour of it - in fact I bet they would.

Posted by Genius : 8/26/2006 10:14:00 AM