Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Kyle Volk

Commitee Members

Anya Jabour, Jeff Wiltse, Tracy Steffes


American history, education, patriotism, reform, schools


University of Montana


Beginning in the late-nineteenth century an assortment of actors, alongside school administrators and teachers, pressed for the inclusion of national symbols, myths, and rituals in American schools. Amid a flurry of educational reform in the half-century following the Civil War, a nascent patriotic education movement recast schools’ relationship with the nation’s past in an attempt to shape its future. This mobilization began at the local and state levels, but through aggressive promotion patriotic education was a nationwide force by 1920, with several states adopting legal standards requiring outward expressions of patriotism in schools. Promoters of patriotic education sought to entrench a political culture of national reverence in the nation’s public schools as a way of shaping generations of citizens’ ideologies. By the time Americans entered World War I –– a period characterized by government persecution of dissenters, state enforcement of loyalty oaths for teachers, and demands for one hundred percent Americanism –– the ideals promulgated by patriotic reformers in the preceding decades appeared ascendant. The outburst of nationalist excitement that the World War I era witnessed should be understood not merely as a reaction to the wartime state’s immediate demands, but also a manifestation of the patriotic curriculum many Americans had received for decades. The patriotic ideals articulated in the late-nineteenth century took root in school textbooks, lesson plans, and rituals, creating a standardized form of national expression and entrenching it the public schools. Though the late-nineteenth century proponents of patriotic education had no way of anticipating America’s entrance into World War I, their efforts nonetheless laid the groundwork for citizens’ vocal assertions of patriotism during wartime This thesis examines the development, popularization, and legacy of the patriotic education movement from the years following the Civil War through the end of American involvement in World War I. Patriotic education developed parallel to an unprecedented surge in state-sponsored educational reform and shifting popular opinions of war, expansionism, and citizenship. In uncovering the cultural, political, and social aims and implications of this largely unexplored facet of American patriotic culture, this thesis traces how the immediate aftermath of the Civil War influenced the ideologies of late-nineteenth century reformers.



© Copyright 2012 Cody Dodge Ewert