Episode 31: Beware Rose Colored Glasses of Forced Patriotism with Emily Newman
In this episode we talk to Emily Newman from the American Humanist Association about forced patriotism, the false narrative about Critical Race Theory being taught in school and what’s coming up from the AHA as it looks for a new executive director.
00:57 Forced Patriotism
08:39 The Myth of Critical Race Theory
17:41 An AHA Update
Emily Newman is the Senior Education Coordinator at the American Humanist Association’s Center for Education. She also contributes to theHumanist.com.
Emily holds a BS in psychology and creative writing as well as a MA in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University. Emily grew up in Ethical Culture and has been active with the Future of Ethical Societies, the National Ethical Service, and the International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organization.
[Transcript also available for offline reading HERE coming soon]
Voice Over 0:02
This is Glass City Humanist, a show about humanism, humanist values by a humanist. Here’s your host, Douglas Berger.
Doug Berger 0:12
In this episode, we talked to Emily Newman from the American Humanist Association about forced patriotism, the false narrative about critical race theory being taught in school, and what’s coming up from the AHA, as it looks for a new executive director,
Voice Over 0:28
Glass City Humanist is an outreach project of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie, building community through compassion and reason for a better tomorrow.
Doug Berger 0:56
With us today is Emily Newman from the American Humanist Association. She is currently the senior education coordinator. And we’re going to talk about what’s called forced patriotism. Thank you for joining us today, Emily.
Emily Newman 1:12
Yeah, thanks for having me.
Doug Berger 1:14
And so we’ll just get started right off the top, what is forced patriotism.
Emily Newman 1:21
It’s literally just about for pushing someone to be, like, devoted to their country to, you know, kind of uphold that your country is better than any others. And you know kind of look, there are two different kinds of patriotism. One is the loving your country no matter what, right or wrong. And then you have unquestioning devotion, and then the other one would be loving your country while working to fix it. And I think that usually we refer to the first as a force patriotism, kind of an all or nothing. While the second option is a lot more humanistic, it’s a lot more taking responsibility, taking action, being able to see how our, how each person impacts the future and the progress a country can make.
Doug Berger 2:17
And why would force patriotism be a bad thing.
Emily Newman 2:25
So I think, you know, with any kind of love or devotion to something, it really needs to be consensual from the person clear that they know what they are devoted to. And so the sense that somebody else is putting this expectation and control over you, and deciding how you should connect to something without really properly educating you on why, you know, it’s much it becomes much more about this external person, then, the wants, needs our understanding of yourself. And so I think that that greatly connects to our work and humanism, that we want to take, you know, ownership of our lives and make them meaningful and have deep meaningful connections to concepts, people situations, without that dogmatic control that that others like to put on us.
Doug Berger 3:27
And part of the impetus of doing this, talking to you about this, was that there was a bill introduced by Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, called the Love America Act. And in that they indicated that or that they wanted students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance by the first grade. And the Constitution’s preamble by the fourth grade. Does rote memorization of the pledge and the preamble make one a better citizen or more patriotic?
Emily Newman 4:04
I don’t think so. And I know that, you know, rote memorization is certainly a useful tool in order to make sure that lessons stick but that doesn’t really get down to the understanding of what these words are and the meaning that they have. So I think that the this bill in particular is sort of like a cheap way to get students to absorb the idealized version of America that a lot of politicians have and want to force out there. But to truly understand and care for America and the potential in America, you would need to understand the history behind those words. The reason that they were developed the people that develop them and also what comes after those words. What really frustrated me when I first saw the bill was that we seem to be so obsessed with the Bill of Rights, which of course, I love. But let’s not forget that all the other amendments that come after that had to make a lot of corrections for the limitations of the Bill of Rights. And so we shouldn’t ignore the progress that our country has made and needs to continue to make in order to understand how we can fully love it.
Doug Berger 5:25
And I, and I’m with you on that one, because I know I think it’s the preamble where it says all men are created equal. And you’re like, but women are equal too and it doesn’t make sense. And then when you’re kids, you don’t question it. You just repeat it. And then when you take a look at it, and you study it, then you’re like, oh, okay, so they came up with that when women were not equal. And so it does help to bring the context into it.
Emily Newman 6:00
I feel like we’re often kind of taught to forgive and look over language limitations like that, just like, Oh, mankind really means everybody. Or we say he often just as a go to singular pronoun, and we don’t address instead of listing out that of the options, but I think that that assumption of exclusion can be very harmful, because then people aren’t seeing themselves in history. And then and we’re kind of being taught to excuse these limitations, as opposed to try to improve on them and try to be more inclusive and more welcoming. And, you know, I think that that is, there’s, there’s too often an either or concept of, you know, love or hate good or bad. And that makes it hard for us to feel comfortable. And understand, like there’s a lot of in between, there’s a lot of opportunities, there’s, you know, a lot of other options in there.
Doug Berger 7:03
And I just find it highly ironic that Josh Hawley is the one that introduced this bill, because he is the one that was one of many that tried to overturn the last election. And so he, I think he probably needs a refresher course on the Constitution. If you asked me,
Emily Newman 7:24
we are seeing a lot of kind of clumping together of issues with the recent rallies. So like, it may start out as a rally against the school board because of masks, but then you throw in their critical race theory you throw in their politics and concerns about science versus religion. And it the whole argument gets very muddled. Because I think that it’s, it’s unclear, you know, what the goals are and who the different sides are. And even, you know, what, how we’re going to have the discussion. I mean, I think that certainly rallies where we’re yelling at each other, and not the best place for discussions and for people to actually be heard. But that shouldn’t mean that dialogue doesn’t happen in order to, you know, make sure that people feel heard, feel supported, and that we can come together, especially when it comes to the benefit of educating our children.
Voice Over 8:24
For more information about the topics in this episode, including links used, please visit the episode page at glass city humanist dot show.
Doug Berger 8:39
Now most rational people have investigated this and and know that critical race theory isn’t being taught in secondary schools or any public schools really? Why do you think conservatives drag CRT into these kinds of conversations?
Unknown Speaker 8:58
I think it’s a defensive gut reaction. They didn’t like the 1619 project from the New York Times Magazine, they don’t like any hint that they’re being referred to as a racist, or any foreseeable, like attack on the America that they know is true. And so they just kind of try to do a 180 and go on the offensive and say, like, this is un-American, this is hateful, divisive, and they don’t in they literally have people saying that we’re just going to throw the stamp of CRT on everything in order to get it out there. Like they’re not even trying to hide the fact that that this is sort of a concentrated attack on this curriculum. And I think that, you know, it just kind of shows their lack of education and lack of commitment to Improving our race issues in America because they’re just trying to, you know, shuffle it under the rug and ignore it and pretend that everything’s fine. Which is, which really does a disservice to people of all races and backgrounds. Because ignoring our difficult history and the troubling systems that that’s caused is not going to break these patterns.
Doug Berger 10:26
Yeah, and I have heard some article online, some news article, a conservative actually blaming the continued pandemic on CRT? Hmm. So, um, yeah, so they just kind of throw that out as a catch all.
Emily Newman 10:46
Anything I don’t like must be bad and therefore banned,
Doug Berger 10:50
right? Why do you think kids learning that this country was developed on the backs of slavery, important to know, and to learn?
Emily Newman 11:04
Because I think that that gives us the fuller history and gives us more narratives, instead of centering it on just the, you know, the will not just the white voices and potentially the heroic kind of American story, I think that, you know, we need to really recognize that we are that this, the metaphor of a melting pot just focuses on assimilation, and that we become the same as opposed to, I think I’ve heard, the other option is more like a salad or like, we still are ourselves, we still have our identities, but we’re working together in a system. I think that we lose a lot of interesting facts and opportunities to get to know each other on a deeper level by trying to, you know, erase stories. And I think it’s also important for children and adults really, honestly, at any development age, to feel comfortable with their identities and not shamed about it. So we kind of want to be able to have those conversations where people can be their full selves, and feel respected and, and get to know another person’s full self.
Doug Berger 12:32
And what would you what would you say to those who believe that pointing out the truth about history means that white children are being made to feel bad at being called a racist? How would you address that?
Emily Newman 12:50
I think that that example of someone who is making assumptions about the curriculum and not actually looking at the lesson plans, and looking at the the goal of the lesson plans, you know, any good teacher is not going to separate out the children and, or attack them or make them feel bad. And if anything, they, they want to give the full picture in order to show that although we are equal individuals, we have different experiences, and we have different feelings, and all of that is valid, and we should all be working towards supporting each other. So I think that the, you know, it, that gut reaction of guilt or shame or assuming that the curriculum is going to cause those bad feelings is sort of our some people’s like defense mechanism to not actually get into that uncomfortable history. And that confusing planning to move away from these harmful systems really put in the work to figure out what solutions we need.
Doug Berger 14:02
And we’ve seen recently because of the pandemic for mask issues and vaccination issues, hotbed of disputes going on in local school, school boards around the country, would you encourage humanists to run for school board?
Emily Newman 14:24
I think that it would be a great platform for humans to represent themselves because humanism very much focuses on the the concept of engaging with our, with our society and our government and being active. I think that you it, it comes down a little bit more to the person’s experience and energy. That’s specifically how they identify because I have well, of course, I think that humous values should be represented in school boards. I think that we also can take some work into kind of pushing folks who maybe haven’t officially labeled as humanists or don’t know that they are humanists yet, and to also embrace and understand the values because they truly are universal. And I think that they are essential when it comes to developing and supporting children to become fully, you know, independent, respectful ethical beings.
Doug Berger 15:31
And I also think it helps to, when people with our values go out there and to public and, and, and try for elective office or school board or, or whatever, because it gives other people that may be on the fence or may think that they believe like we do, kind of have somebody to look up to, and might bring them into the fold as it were.
Emily Newman 15:57
Right. In some areas of the country, it’s essential to be able to show this as what a humanist really is, as opposed to you just the assumptions about someone who may be anti religious or an aggressive atheist, you know, it’s important to show what we do stand for, as opposed to always ourselves being on the defensive about what we have concerns about. And I think it again, it kind of opens up that dialogue, so that, you know, we can break down those stereotypes of, of good, bad and really talk more about us as people as as caring active community members, parents, guardians, you know, it’s, it’s always interesting in the in a lot of the rallies, you see these signs about, we’re one race, and they mean that as a way to unify the human race, but they are sort of giving a a backhanded, like, a slap in the face to people by saying like, but I’m not going to really care about your history or your experience, I’m just going to say we’re all the same.
Voice Over 17:13
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Doug Berger 17:41
And you are you do work for the American Humanist Association. And they are currently in a transition period for executive directors, I’m assuming that it’s still a transition period, any hints or anything about who might get hired for that job yet.
Unknown Speaker 18:03
And no hints, I know that the search is very active and ongoing, and we will certainly you know, share as soon as we have a person in position. And it’s it’s been really interesting to see, as we’ve kind of been moving some responsibilities round to also kind of prepare for this new person and be both setups so that they’re ready to start, you know, as soon as possible, but also making space for them to be able to share their insight.
Doug Berger 18:34
And what I know this is gonna sound clunky, but what new things are going on at the AHA right now that maybe humanists might need to know about that’s going on.
Unknown Speaker 18:48
Sure. Um, so you know, we are as most organizations during COVID, continuing to do our online programming and doing lots of talks and classes. But we have been also participating in in person rallies and working on and showing up to some conferences. I do want to highlight some of the legislation that we are excitedly working hard on, for example, the Do No Harm Act, which we had a virtual lobby day for during the summer. clarifies the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is intended to protect religious freedom without allowing the infliction of harm on other people. So it basically kind of amend what the RFRA or “Rifra” was supposed to be doing to protect everyone’s freedoms, but not used to then you know, limit people’s rights. We also have been working on the Exposing Discrimination in Higher Education Act, which requires colleges and universities to state publicly that they have a RFRA waiver so that potential students who are LGBTQ know that their rights won’t necessarily be protected if they attend that school. And the John Lewis Every Child Deserves A Family Act is prohibiting federally funded child welfare, welfare service providers from discriminating against children, families and individuals, because of their religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status. So kind of, you know, we’ve saw a lot of cases earlier of loving LGBTQ families or non religious families being denied adoption and foster opportunities, which mainly mainly hurts children seeking caring homes. But there were religious federally funded services that were limiting that connection.
Doug Berger 20:56
Yeah, and I think that, that that type of those, those laws that you mentioned, are, are extremely important, because one of the things that’s happening is a lot of the courts are ruling against secular neutrality, and allowing some of these these religious organizations to discriminate against people, as you said, in in adoptions and employment and, and places that they’re not supposed to be able to, simply because they’re religious. And that was the not the point of the RFRA. At all. It was supposed to support religious belief, and now it’s being used as a as a billy club. So I really think that these, these laws are important that they get passed. So we correct some of this. The way it’s going outside what it was intended to do.
Unknown Speaker 21:52
Yeah, we have, you know, certainly had to work harder the last several years to in these court systems, but we’re still very optimistic. And we are working in coalition’s knowing that we are certainly not alone in, in the work that we do, and that we can, for as much as we can kind of move that needle, remind people that the the America is a secular country, and needs to stay that way in order to protect everyone’s religious freedom or freedom of and from religion, and making sure that the separation of church and state stays secure, because that protects people both have faith or no faith in questioning faith, let’s also be honest, like, not everybody is comfortable with solid labels or make or determining their beliefs forever. They tend to fluctuate as they learn more and talk to more people and you know, an individual’s beliefs surely certainly shouldn’t take away the rights of anyone else.
Doug Berger 23:08
And I just wanted to thank you for your time today. And I really appreciate that you could talk to us about these issues and, and I really encourage, we’ll have links up in the show notes to for the article that you wrote about the Love America Act and and some of these laws that are being under consideration. And again, I thank you for your time.
Emily Newman 23:30
Sure, thanks for having me.
Voice Over 23:34
Thank you for listening. For information about the topics in this episode, please visit the episode page at glasscityhumanist.show. Glass City Humanist is an outreach of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie, and is supported in part by a grant by the American Humanist Association. The AHA can be reached at americanhumanist.org SHoWLE can be reached at humanistswle.org. Glass City Humanist is hosted, written and produced by Douglas Berger, and he is solely responsible for the content. Our theme music is Glass City Jam composed using the Ampify Studio See you next time.
Written, produced, and edited by Douglas Berger and he is entirely responsible for the content. Incidental voice overs by Shawn Meagley
The GCH theme is “Glass City Jam” composed using Ampify Studio
This episode by Glass City Humanist is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.