Public education in modern America serves as the primary venue for overtly democratic catechesis. When assessing the way that civil religion has taken shape within our contemporary political milieu, the work of sociologist Adam Gamoran of the University of Wisconsin is helpful. Public schools, Gamoran argues, play a key role in producing and transmitting American civil religion and in teaching appreciation for the symbols and practices that accompany a robust nationalistic faith.
Among Gamoran’s more useful studies is one conducted over a calendar year in a public school located in a Chicago working-class neighborhood. Supplementing his research about the recitation of the pledge, the singing of national hymns, and the instruction regarding national holidays and heroes, Gamoran provides both his own memories from a public elementary and secondary education as well as the insights from profiles and reflections written by his students in an undergraduate sociology course taught at the University of Wisconsin. Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that there exists a distinctly religious tone to the structure of public education, and Gamoran provides a critical analysis of that evidence.
It has been nearly sixty years since a case of any magnitude involving the pledge of allegiance was granted certiorari by America’s high court, but cases are forever under appeal challenging the words ‘under God’ in the national creed. And while it is improbable that the Supreme Court will remove the “offending” prepositional phrase, the legal precedence regarding the pledge should serve as a sobering reminder of how quickly the gears of American jurisprudence can be reversed.
Continue reading “Civil Catechesis and the Democratic Creed, Pt. 5…”