Kissling's passion about patriotism featured in Occasional Papers Series

Jim Carlson
September 27, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Though it's been a longstanding passion, Mark Kissling finds no time like the present to teach, research and write about patriotism.

Teaching about patriotism has been a deep interest for the Penn State assistant professor of education (social studies) since the fall of 2001, when he was a student teacher in Lebanon, New Hampshire. When he entered graduate school a decade ago, that interest grew to include other teachers’ teaching about patriotism. 

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Mark Kissling

IMAGE: Penn State

After Kissling suggested that a focus on patriotism would make for a timely and compelling special journal issue, Gail Boldt recruited him to become guest editor of a volume of the Bank Street Occasional Papers Series (OPS), published by the Bank Street College of Education in Manhattan on Sept. 26 and available online here.

Boldt is a professor of education (language and literacy education) in the College of Education and was recently named editor-in-chief of the Bank Street Occasional Papers Series. She has served on the editorial board of OPS for many years and has been a guest editor for two previous issues; her recent appointment makes her the first person not directly affiliated with Bank Street to be editor-in-chief.

"The Bank Street College of Education is one of the older progressive schools of education in the U.S.," Boldt said. "It has a school for children; it was originally on Bank Street in Manhattan; at its inception, it brought together luminaries of New York’s education world. They train teacher educators only at the graduate level. It's best known as a beacon of progressive education that started with early childhood and has expanded through elementary education."

The twice-yearly Occasional Papers Series is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal that's been published since 1999. Its topics range from high-need schools to inclusive classrooms to teacher leaders and many more. The series draws from Bank Street’s progressive legacy to explore contemporary issues in education, particularly oriented around meeting the interrelated demands of equity and excellence. 

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Gail Boldt

IMAGE: Penn State

"Gail's work with Bank Street provides meaningful experiences for many graduate students," Kissling said. "In the case of this issue, we had about 10 of our graduate students review pieces that had come in as submissions. They gained an important experience of working as a reviewer.

"We've also had several students publish their first piece in the Occasional Papers Series. Even for me as a new faculty member, one of my earliest articles was in an issue focused on place-based education in the Occasional Papers Series. Gail's wonderful in creating opportunities for the community of graduate students and faculty here," he said.

"Teachers are facing genuine dilemmas about pushback (about patriotism)," Boldt said. "Right now, the country is so polarized that teachers are getting pushback if they're trying to do something more critical. They're getting pushback if they're not trying to do something more critical. 

"Is the idea of patriotism 'love it or leave it,' or is the idea of patriotism criticality and protest as an important part of American democracy … how do teachers frame that?" she asked.

Kissling has come to some answers through research he's done on the song "This Land Is Your Land," written in 1940 by Woody Guthrie. 

"I've looked at how teachers have taught the song, especially as it has a couple of verses that are referred to as 'protest' verses that aren't widely known," Kissling said. "The song's been in schools since the late '50s, but only a few stanzas. The ones that aren't in there wonder if 'this land was made for you and me.'"

Kissling said the call for the upcoming issue was framed around the "wondering if." 

"What does it mean to complicate patriotism?" Kissling said. "What does it mean if we say, 'this land made for you and me' if there are hungry people standing outside a relief office? The call was for people to wade into that complexity of patriotism. How are you teaching about it? How are you wrestling with it? The first part of the title of the issue is 'Am I Patriotic?'"

The song, Kissling said, is a cultural phenomenon. Kissling's research has included interviews with folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger; Woody Guthrie's daughter, Nora; and legendary recording artist Bruce Springsteen, who sings his own version of "This Land Is Your Land." 

One part of the upcoming edition is an audio link to Kissling's 2008 interview with Springsteen about that song, which Springsteen sang alongside Seeger on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at former U.S. President Barack Obama's inauguration concert.

"I asked (Springsteen) where he learned that song and it was fascinating to hear him say he learned it from 'Hootenanny,' (a folk show that was on TV in 1963-64)," Kissling said. "Many people tuned in when the folk boom was starting to emerge. He talked about a relative of his who taught him how to play the guitar. He had one song book and on the first page was ‘This Land Is Your Land.’"

Springsteen told Kissling that reading about Woody Guthrie's social awareness and his commentary led him to put the song into his own shows. "The interview is really poetic and beautiful language; it's compelling," Kissling said. "My voice is in there very little. It's Bruce talking, it's storytelling and philosophizing … it's great stuff. 

"It's about what it means to be American, what it means to be patriotic. It's complicated. He wouldn't sing those protest verses initially, now he tends to sing them. He talks about how he was a product of Woody Guthrie and Elvis Presley, that the pink Cadillac was something he wanted to have."

In the upcoming issue, the interview with Springsteen stands alongside five peer-reviewed papers, four invited essays written by prominent educational scholars, and one graphic story about JROTC programs in schools.

"One of the invited essays is titled 'Patriotism and Dual Citizenship' and the author is thinking about being both a Mexican citizen and a U.S. citizen and what that means for her patriotism. It was important to me to complicate patriotism, for it not just to be in one national context."

This particular topic adheres to Bank Street's overall progressive mission, according to Boldt.

"I think Bank Street was founded with a very specific vision that's really important to them and that they hold onto and grow and cultivate," she said. The Occasional Papers are one manifestation of that commitment, and with thousands of readers in 126 countries and over 1,300 institutions, the impact of their commitment is far reaching and significant."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 10, 2018