In “September 11: Seven Lessons for Schools” (October 2002 issue of Educational Leadership), Diane Ravitch writes, “In the wake of Sept. 11, U.S. education has begun to absorb seven important lessons.” She cites no evidence for this assertion, and I hope she is wrong. The lessons that she identifies offer a highly politicized and distorted view of education goals, American values, and world events.
The first lesson, according to Ravitch, is that “It's okay to be patriotic.” She blames the Vietnam War for giving “patriotism a bad name.” In fact, it was government secrecy, lies to the public, and illegal activity by elected officials that gave patriotism a bad name in the United States. Ravitch confuses the need to promote active citizenship in a democratic society with patriotism. Active citizenship requires critical thinking and the constant questioning of authority. It never provides government officials with a blank check. Patriotism, on the other hand, means blindly rooting for the home team. This fervor may be acceptable at sporting events, but not as a substitute for civic discourse.