October 21, 2009


Hirsch, E.D., Jr., The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2009) ("The intellectual and moral error of some members of the intellectual elite has been to equate American patriotism with narrow nationalism and militaristic flag-waving. They have a point. When the Nazis came to power in Germany in the 1930s, there was a flowering of German flags and a sharp rise of government-induced patriotic fervor. But the special character of that kind of nationalism has little to do with the more accommodating American patriotism. [????] The best writer on this subject is Benedict Anderson, who sees this hostile form of nationalist flag-waving as tribalism--always directed against some other tribe: the Jews, the Blacks, the Muslims, the Hispanics, and so on. Anderson connects this whipped-up nationalism with racism, an attempt to resist or overcome some other group. The language is that of "contamination" or "infiltration." Real patriotism, he observes, involves the willingness to sacrifice and even die for the patria and defines itself not by its difference from or superiority to some "other" but rather by its unconditional loyalty. . . ." "The true American form of patriotism [????] is commodious rather than tribal. It is inherently cosmopolitan--the first such patriotism in the history of the world and, in that respect, at its best, a beacon. But America also has content; it is not an unrooted polyglot cosmopolitansim. It accommodates all groups but at the same time, through commonalities and principles learned in childhood, fills the human need for group attachment--the noblest such political experiment yet attempt. The proper aimm of American schools is not jingoism but loyalty to a truly glorious ideal. As Anderson observes, such loyalty to an imagined community can be accomplished only through a common language. Commonality of language is the indispensable vehicle of loyalty and solidarity as well as general competence. Language, like it the civic ideals of freedom, equality, and toleration, is thus at the cent of the core curriculum." Id. at 92. In reading both the next passages, think about legal education. "We have moved to the proposition that, in order to enable communication in the public sphere, commonality of language requires commonality of knowledge. Now we need to take the next logical step. Commonality of knowledge requires commonality in schooling. The schools need to impart not only the forms of the standard language but also the unstated knowledge students need in order to understand what is being said in the classroom, in newspapers, and elsewhere in the public sphere. This unstated knowledge is extensive, and it needs to be imparted gradually and securely over the years of schooling. Indeed, the vastness of this knowledge is the chief reason schooling takes many years. If reading and writing were simply-how- skills, three or four years would suffice. You could graduate after fourth grade. But thirteen years are barely enough to gain the need general knowledge for mature literacy in the Internet age, and even that many years . . . have not sufficed in the United States." Id. at 115. As member of a law faculty, I often wonder how much common knowledge about law student have on the day of graduation. I suspect they have very little. If they are lucky, students will have sufficient knowledge to pass the bar and get hired. But passing the bar and getting a law job do not require much knowledge of the law, and certainly requires a bare commonality in what little law is known. As many law school get on the latest schooling craze, i.e., experiential learning, the students' knowledge of law 's content and substance will be even less and commonality in knowledge will be pretty much nonexistent. Say it isn't so Joe. Joe? Joe? Are you even listening, Joe? Are you still there, Joe?).