Rights, rebels, republicans, or patriots: Legal Challenges to civic Education policies and the meanings of american citizenship (1877-1943)
Under American constitutional law, the relationship between students and public schools is somewhat akin to the relationship between citizens and the state. While the former relationship lacks the sort of participatory rights citizens exercise vis-à-vis the state, students do enjoy a set of negative rights/liberties enforceable against public schools. This paper argues that the foundation of American student rights jurisprudence was a product of a historical context that shaped the law in particular ways. The paper first discusses the “Citizenship Crusade,” a set of 19th– and 20th-century public school policies aimed at molding children into citizens. It then analyzes legal opinions from two waves of litigation in which parents challenged aspects of that crusade. In the first, in which parents challenged, among other policies, restrictions on foreign language instruction and mandatory public school attendance, judges balanced parental and state authority. In striking this balance, courts established a system where the state controlled public schools and regulated private ones but parents retained the power either to opt their children out of public schools or at least control children’s lives outside of the public school day. During the second wave of litigation, focused on mandatory pledge of allegiance ceremonies, this system presented an obstacle for lawyers and judges arguing against the constitutionality of such ceremonies. Namely, because the state could not mandate public school attendance, the claim that mandatory pledge ceremonies in public schools violated parental rights to direct children’s education was eviscerated. As a result, these lawyers and judges, including, eventually, a majority of the US Supreme Court, rested their arguments on the rights of students themselves. This turn, and the connection judges made between students’ rights and students’ status as citizens-in-training, laid the first stones of the foundation for the student rights jurisprudence that blossomed during the 1960s. The opinions in these cases reveal judges’ normative conceptions of citizenship. Since the cases involve policies aimed at children, judges saw these cases as an opportunity to consider what citizenship should be, as opposed to what citizenship is, in the process revealing much about how judges understood children’s status and rights.
The Immigrant Experience in French Children’s Literature
This presentation will analyze the ways in which the immigrant experience is depicted in contemporary French picture books for children under ten years old. In the last decade there has been a notable peak of new literature for children on the topic of immigration, integration, and citizenship published in France. This productive moment is not surprising. Since the 1970s, immigration has been a politically charged issue. For more than four decades, French society’s struggles to accommodate and integrate immigrants and their children have been front-page news in all forms of media: journalism, television, film, and scholarly work. It is only natural that the issue finally reaches children’s literature.
In France, the mostly European immigrants of the early and mid-twentieth century have ceded—post-World War Two and post-decolonization—to immigrants from North Africa and Africa predominantly. For this reason, the place of Islam in “religiously secular” Catholic France has been a primary question. So too the continuous alienation from paths of social mobility for second-, third-, and now fourth- and fifth-generation French children born of Muslim, Arab, or African ancestry—exacerbated by decades of high unemployment—remains intractable.
Using a sample of about 15 fictional picture books (or more if I can obtain them in time), I will analyze whether this new children’s literature espouses the French model of assimilation (as opposed to the American model of multiculturalism) whereby newcomers are generally welcome but on the condition of becoming “French.” (The 2004 law banning the wearing of religious clothing (Muslim headscarves) in French schools is an example of this model.) Do these books valorize “difference” and maintenance of traditional cultures or tend to glorify French republicanism? Do the books target “native” French children or child-readers of backgrounds of the sort depicted in the actual stories? I will stay attuned to the authors and publishing houses who have produced this wave of literature as I analyze the forms of idealized national identity being proposed to young French-speaking children.
“Learn[ing] neatness, good manners, and American ways”: Teaching Citizenship in the School on Ellis Island
Most Americans can trace their roots through Ellis Island, one of the most important elements in the “peopling of America” and the formation of the fabric of American society. From 1852 to 1954, over 12 million “aliens,” as they were known, were processed, detained, or denied access to the United States at this port of entry, among them a large number of children of all ages, either those who were detained or those who were waiting for someone to clear the way for their parents’ entrance to the country.
Although the number of children on Ellis Island varied, their population was typically large. As such, this presented an opportunity for a variety of philanthropic organizations to establish a school where the children could be introduced to America and be prepared to be “good citizens.” A collaborative of US Government-approved organizations including churches and other religiously affiliated groups, the Red Cross, the American Library Association, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and others, found an unused space near the baggage room and began to teach the young people, focusing on literacy. The challenge was designing a methodology that would reach such a wide range of ages of children who were extremely transient and who had no common language.
Although the stated goal was to create “good citizens,” the subversive side of the instruction was to use the platform as a way to infuse the instruction with religious messages and long-lasting sensibilities that would influence voting in the children’s political futures, and, it was hoped, that of the adults around them. As the control of the school changed from one philanthropic group to another, so did the undercurrent of the instruction. The foundation of the instruction for all groups was the pedagogy of Froebel, but the message was specific to the definition of “citizenship” to which the teacher subscribed.
This paper will use the existing documentation, almost exclusively photographs and primary documents from the archives of the organizations associated with the schools on Ellis Island, to describe the schools, the students and teachers, the spaces for instruction, the pedagogy and instruction, and the underlying messages transmitted to the children and young people in order to make them “good citizens.”
Philosophy for Children and the Cultivation of Citizenship
In this presentation on the Philosophy for Children program, I will show a short clip of young children participating in the program–that is, doing philosophy. I will then discuss briefly the role of philosophy generally, and this program in particular, in the development of critical awareness, political engagement, and responsible citizenship.
The 1912 Book of Knowledge and the Construction of the Androgynous Citizen
Originally published in Britain between 1908 and 1910 in fortnightly parts under the title The Children’s Encyclopædia, and subsequently as a ten-volume set translated into French, Italian, Spanish, and Chinese, The Book of Knowledge doubled in length in the U.S., appearing in twenty volumes sold by the Grolier Company from 1910 onward. Positioned in its American edition as a work designed to bolster “the American home” (I.vii), the Grolier set simultaneously demonstrates the editors’ belief that the child reader should become an educated citizen of the world.
The set appears to imagine not a reader who will start on page 1 and continue straight through to page 6,310, but rather one who will specialize in particular areas of interest; to render specialization easier, selections end with a tag line such as “The next nature story begins on page 269.” In one sense, then, the Book of Knowledge illustrates the editors’ vision of the variety possible within children as a group. Yet even as the construction and organization of the set acknowledges that children, adult editors, and citizens of the world in general may embody a wide range of viewpoints and interests, the Book of Knowledge’s frequent efforts at building character and citizenship in its readers are remarkably unitary. If the editors anticipated that only a tiny sliver of their audience would find the entire set appealing and that consequently any one reader would expose him- or herself to a mere fraction of the available information, where moral didacticism is concerned they address this problem by reiterating the same set of values throughout—whether the implied reader is American or British, six years old or sixteen, male or female. It is the latter question of what the narrative address may tell us about the editors’ understanding of citizenship as essentially nongendered in which this paper is primarily interested.
Billy Whiskers’ America: Frances Trego Montgomery’s Primer for Two-Legged Kids (1902-1930)
In 1976, I visited the boyhood home of John F. Kennedy in Brookline, Massachusetts. (President Kennedy was born in 1917 and lived in the house until 1927.) Memorably, a tape recording by Rose Kennedy played during the visit, explaining her childrearing practices. She was, for example, very careful about her son John’s reading habits, and was adamant about removing copies of Billy Whiskers from his view. Although it may be a created memory, I am quite sure that there was a helpful cupboard containing copies of Billy Whiskers so that one could see exactly what she was snatching. This occasion provided an introduction to a rarely mentioned, but enormously popular, children’s series (1902-1930 approximately) that spanned an important period of America’s development and engaged the affections of a future President. Mrs. Kennedy, the grandchild of Irish immigrants (as was her husband), with a family already holding elected office, had a firm agenda about citizenship; the extent to which Billy Whiskers ultimately helped or hindered her efforts is open to question.
Billy is a large bumptious goat. He is much more destructive (“smash!”) than lads in the “Bad Boys” books. Like Elsie Dinsmore, he is an adult, and married, through most of the series, with adult freedoms and abilities (he can fly an airplane, for example, although his goat anatomy causes some difficulties). Like the Oz stories, the series had a large format with frequent “comic” pictures and espoused a bouncily optimistic view of life. Yet since Billy visits many regions of America, interacts with different social classes and ethnic groups, and ventures to France and Japan in time of war, the series also educated children about the country. The extent to which it prompted service or democratic principles (“the library should be open to all – except the censor”) is the subject of my inquiry.
“Twirl for me”: The Performance of Femininity as a Means of Survival in The Hunger Games
This paper will examine the performance of gender that occurs in the Hunger Games series, focusing on Katniss Everdeen, but I will briefly mention other instances of gender performativity. I will show that feminine traits are paramount in Panem and can be seen through both men and women in the high-class Capitol. In this presentation, I will address the epilogue of the series, which has perplexed many scholars because of Katniss’s seemingly out of character choice to become a wife and a mother after the fall of both oppressive rulers (President Snow and President Coin); I will argue that Collins chose this epilogue in order to present the message that gender, specifically femininity, must be consciously performed in order to survive in dystopian AND non-dystopian societies. I will focus on Katniss’s gendered actions throughout the series, highlighting her use of femininity as a tool for survival and resistance in the dystopian societies of Panem and District 13. During both of the actual hunger games, Katniss’s survival depends upon the reliability of her acting abilities; The Hunger Games is a television show, and Katniss is an actress with a role to play—that is, she consciously acts out femininity to please her audience. By non-dystopian society, I am referring to the society that exists in the epilogue, wherein, I will posit, Katniss continues to practice femininity as a survival tactic because, without her performance of femininity by becoming a wife and a mother, Katniss would lose Peeta, without whom, I contend, she cannot survive. I will also provide an analysis of the Capitol and its hyper-feminized citizens. By doing so, I will seek to answer the following questions: How does one define citizenship in Panem? What kind of citizen does Katniss represent? What is the relationship between gender and citizenship in this series?
Gender and Citizenship in Jade
Sally Watson’s Jade (1969) is a novel that readily lends itself to a study of the portrayal of female citizenship in literature for children. Despite this, Jade has largely been ignored by scholars of children’s literature. My paper, therefore, is concerned not only with examining the issues of gender and citizenship at play in Watson’s novel, but also with bringing Jade into the ongoing scholarly conversation about the literary depiction of the female child as citizen. My paper focuses on issues of gender performativity in Jade, and the relationship of gender performance to citizenship. I argue that citizenship and the performance of gender are inextricably linked in Jade, and that the ideal female citizen in this novel is the non-binary or androgynous female citizen.
Watson’s protagonist, Jade, struggles to define her gender identity against the norms of two vastly different societies: that of colonial Williamsburg, and that of the Queen Royal. Williamsburg demands submission from women and treats them like property. Thus, a performance of femininity in this society bars one from having access to full citizenship. In contrast, the pirate society initially seems to be more egalitarian in its gender codes. However, this is a masculinized society in which women can assume leadership roles in fact but never in title and in which they must prove themselves through participation in a violent and aggressive culture. Jade rejects the gendered expectations placed upon her by both societies, refusing to become polarized at either end of the gender spectrum and maintaining an androgynous gender performance. Jade’s androgyny is, I argue, an outward symbol of her refusal to submit to any society that privileges one gender over the other. Thus, in her struggle for equality, the nonbinary Jade is presented as the ideal female citizen.
Textual Literacy and Citizenship in Little Lord Fauntleroy: A Drama in Three Acts
There are many dichotomies in Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy, and yet Cedric, the title character, negotiates them all: he is an American Brit, a precocious child, a member of the middle class turned rich Earl-to-be, and an androgynous boy. Although nearly all of the scholarship on the novel focuses solely on Cedric’s supposed femininity, Lorinda B. Cohoon includes conversational and benevolent citizenship in her discussion of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Cohoon mentions the power of reading, writing, and speaking, but examining the changes and additions Burnett made to her 1888 dramatization of the novel, Little Lord Fauntleroy: A Drama in Three Acts, will offer us an even deeper understanding of how Cedric embodies good citizenship through his ability to interpret and engage with texts. The play demonstrates that textual literacy—using the term to include oral, written, and visual forms of communication—is an important focal point for Burnett and a key part of Cedric’s citizenship. Not only do we see Cedric creating and responding to texts, but we also see his ability to inspire others to become more informed about and engaged in both national and international current events. Even in such a condensed form, Burnett adds to the amount of letters written and received by the characters and turns a brief discussion about Ainsworth’s The Tower of London into an extensive part of the first act. Furthermore, Cedric’s ability to straddle seemingly antithetical social categories allows and encourages readers to see him as modeling an ideal citizenship that is based on textual literacy but independent from nationality, age, class, and gender.