Governments seem drawn like moths to flame by the fantasy that they can dictate to teachers what opinions they should hold and what ideas of the world they can teach. The controversies that ensue can be clarifying. It may seem that in the era of 24/7 internet-facilitated information glut such efforts would be inherently laughable. But they recur.
When I arrived at the University of California at Berkeley in 1965, the saga of faculty resistance to a McCarthy-era anti-Communist loyalty oath was still an iconic part of campus history. Many of the participants were senior faculty in the 1960s. When the oath had been introduced, some professors and more non-academic employees were fired for failing to sign; the faculty quite rapidly won a free speech judgment against the oath. The university governing board rescinded the rule. Ordinary employees were not so absolved however; to this day the California state constitution requires state workers who are US citizens to sign a loyalty oath as a condition of employment. In 2008 this was challenged by a Quaker who could not promise to use violence to support the state. The state cobbled a compromise. The most recent national litigation about a loyalty oath seems to have reached the Supreme Court in 1972; the Court agreed that Massachusetts could require an oath to "oppose the overthrow of the [government] by force, violence, or by any illegal or unconstitutional method." So existing precedent makes this sort of thing legal.
Apparently another round may be currently playing itself out in Nebraska. According to reporting by Sarah Lazare:
The local affiliate of the ACLU threatens a civil rights lawsuit if a school district enforcing a requirement that its employees sign this pledge doesn't back off. This will be worth watching. Do we currently have a civil liberties consensus in which courts would invalid such an oath? I'm not sure.
Interestingly, something like this is going on Great Britain as the acerbic Cambridge don Mary Beard discovered:
She goes on to report that a quick examination of other schools' websites shows that they've all sought compliance by posting the same verbiage. She doubts there is much real world effect of these boilerplate affirmations, except perhaps to burden police and fire departments with school visits.
I enjoyed Ms. Beard's response to her government's mandatory "values" boosterism. If we can't get rid of such initiatives legally (and I don't think either here or in Britain we can look to courts to do that job) we can perhaps mock them into the moth zapper. That seems worth the attempt.