Legislature wrong inforcing flags into classrooms
Politics has muscled its way into university classrooms in Florida. Last year Florida’s legislature mandated the installation of flags in schools statewide. The intrusion is, at best, unfortunate, at worst, deeply objectionable–even insulting.
The university designated a space of open-ended discussion and robust discourse. Here students learn to become thoughtful citizens. Politicians who order the flag into classrooms convert the flag from a symbol of freedom into a sign of state power, coercion, and conformity–especially during a controversial war. They subvert the very reason the flag holds great meaning to so many Americans. Forced patriotism is no patriotism at all. What kind of affection, after all, insists on its own display for one and all to see?
Justice Robert Jackson wrote in 1943, “Struggles to coerce uniformity of sentiment in support of some end thought essential to their time and country have been waged by many good as well as evil men. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.”
If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion…”
Finding myself in agreement with Justice Jackson, I would urge faculty and students to recover the flag. Do not cede its possession to partisan politicians.
Steven Johnston is an associate professor in the department of government and international affairs.