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Making Good Citizens

Making Good Citizens: Education and Civil Society

Diane Ravitch
Joseph P. Viteritti
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Making Good Citizens
    Book Description:

    Americans have reason to be concerned about the condition of American democracy at the start of the twenty-first century. Surveys show that civic participation has declined, cynicism about government has increased, and young people have a weak grasp of the principles that underlie our constitutional system. Crucial questions must be answered: How serious is the situation? What role do schools play in shaping civic behavior? Are current education reform initiatives-such as multiculturalism and school choice-counterproductive? How can schools contribute toward reversing the trend?This volume brings together leading thinkers from a variety of disciplines to probe the relation between a healthy democracy and education. Their original and provocative discussions cut across a range of important topics: the cultivation of democratic values, the formation of social capital in schools and communities, political conflict in a pluralist society, the place of religion in public life, the enduring problems of racial inequality. Gathering together the most current research and thinking on education and civil society, this is a book that deserves the attention of everyone who cares about the quality and future of American democracy.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12978-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Diane Ravitch and Joseph P. Viteritti

    The last decade of the twentieth century will be remembered by scholars of civic education as a time when research and social commentary converged to call into question the condition of American democracy. Robert Putnam’s striking metaphor of “bowling alone” resonated with many as an accurate description of the problematic state of our civic life. Putnam claimed that Americans had become less inclined to join the voluntary associations that for generations had served as the backbone of their communities and expressions of their common ideals.¹ In a provocative essay published in 1995, he laid out a disturbing array of empirical...

  5. Chapter 1 Education and Democracy
    (pp. 15-29)
    Diane Ravitch

    Writing in 1787, Noah Webster said that the subject of education was “trite” and that it had already been “exhausted by the ablest writers, both among the ancients and moderns.” He doubted that he had anything to add to the speculations of those who had preceded him, but add he did to that “exhausted” subject, and at great length.¹ What attracted his attention and has continued to capture the attention of countless writers and thinkers since then was the prospect that education could shape tender minds, and even more important, that education could be consciously employed to shape society.


  6. Chapter 2 Education and Democratic Citizenship
    (pp. 30-57)
    Norman Nie and D. Sunshine Hillygus

    More than a half-century of empirical research on mass political behavior points to the consistent and overwhelming in fluence of education on myriad facets of democratic citizenship. Amount of formal education is almost without exception the strongest factor in explaining what citizens do in politics and how they think about politics. Philip Converse once referred to educational attainment as the universal solvent of political behavior.¹ Yet we know precious little about what goes on inside the educational process that has such a profound effect on so many aspects of democratic citizenship. The overwhelming number of studies (and there are literally...

  7. Chapter 3 Community-Based Social Capital and Educational Performance
    (pp. 58-95)
    Robert D. Putnam

    The African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” has become a cliché in current discussions about education in the United States. One interesting question that arises from this call for community engagement is whether some kinds of villages do a better job of raising and educating children than others.

    Discussions of the effects of community characteristics on educational performance can usefully be framed in terms of “social capital.” In the educational context the late James S. Coleman defined social capital as “the norms, the social networks, and the relationships between adults and children that are of value...

  8. Chapter 4 Fluctuations of Social Capital in an Urban Neighborhood
    (pp. 96-121)
    Gerald Grant

    We had come home from a vacation in New Hampshire and settled in with a good movie. Afterward, as I walked a few city blocks to return the video, I saw three wilding males in their mid-teens coming up the street. They were jumping up to break off overhanging branches, and one of them had a thick stick about a yard long that he was using to whack everything in sight. As they got to the small string of stores near the commercial district, the boy with the stick began swinging at a sign hanging by the auto repair shop....

  9. Chapter 5 To Not Fade Away: Restoring Civil Identity Among the Young
    (pp. 122-141)
    William Damon

    Success often breeds the seeds of its own demise—just as, in coastal areas, hot weather eventually consumes itself by raising a cooling fog from the sea. Complacency is a common mechanism for success-born self-destruction in human affairs. It has the curious effect of creating conditions for eventual collapse at the same time as fostering the delusion that it could never happen. The more secure the sense of complacency, the more dense the reverie and the greater the peril. Among the most hazardous and oblivious senses of complacency are those that pile up across generations. Family histories come replete with...

  10. Chapter 6 Moral Disagreement, Moral Education, Common Ground
    (pp. 142-167)
    Warren A. Nord

    Discussions of moral education almost inevitably hit the rocks over the problem of moral disagreement: whose morality, whose values do we teach? After all, we disagree, often deeply, about morality; common ground is elusive. In private schools, of course, common ground can be found by limiting the constituency to those who accept the mission and values of those schools. This option isn’t open to public schools, however; their constituency, after all, is everyone—and even the smallest, traditionally homogeneous school districts are becoming culturally and morally pluralistic. I want to suggest a simple solution to this problem—simple, at least,...

  11. Chapter 7 Some Problems in Acknowledging Diversity
    (pp. 168-186)
    Nathan Glazer

    The central issue that is brought to mind when we consider the relation of civil society to education is whether civil society today, fragmented as it is by different dominant assumptions, can properly support the enterprise of education. How effective can this support be when civil society is fractured and divided over such central issues as the significance of authority in the education of children, the place of the family in the moral shaping of children, whether a role of strict neutrality in the realm of values is the proper stance of state and school, the role of religion in...

  12. Chapter 8 Education and Citizenship in an Age of Pluralism
    (pp. 187-212)
    Mark Holmes

    Although the idea of the common school for all was first realized in Scandinavia, the earliest strong prototype among the English-speaking democracies was developed in the United States, both in fact—in the towns and rural areas of the Northeast and Midwest—and in the minds of its people.¹ In the first half of the twentieth century, while the secondary school in the Scandinavian countries developed along generic northern European lines (with separate provision for the academically talented), the myth, if not the reality, of a “democratic” school representing a national sense of citizenship took hold in the United States....

  13. Chapter 9 Common Education and the Democratic Ideal
    (pp. 213-232)
    Rosemary C. Salomone

    A century and a half ago, education reformers conceived of the common school as the institution where our democratic and republican roots would come together. Designed to meet the needs of swelling European migration and rapid industrialization, mass compulsory schooling would develop in children the skills, understandings, and character traits necessary for them to participate as informed citizens sharing a public philosophy. Government-operated schools would develop civic virtue and national identity through a shared set of values reflected in the curriculum. This ambitious project assumed that Americans, old and new, could unite around a common set of public and private...

  14. Chapter 10 Once More into the Breach: Reflections on Jefferson, Madison, and the Religion Problem
    (pp. 233-262)
    Jack N. Rakove

    When Alexis de Tocqueville arrived in America in 1831, Thomas Jefferson had been dead five years, but James Madison was still alive—physically feeble at eighty years of age, but mentally as acute as ever. It is a great regret that Tocqueville did not visit Madison at Montpelier. When Tocqueville described “The Federal Constitution” in chapter 8 ofDemocracy in America(published in 1835, the year before Madison’s death), he relied onThe Federalist,which Madison had written with Alexander Hamilton nearly half a century earlier.¹ And, of course, in their common concern with the phenomenon of majoritarian government, the two...

  15. Chapter 11 Civil Society, Religion, and the Formation of Citizens
    (pp. 263-278)
    Jean Bethke Elshtain

    Civil society is on the tips of our tongues nowadays whenever the question arises of how well democratic societies, whether old or new, are faring. That this is so is perhaps unsurprising. For we seem to have arrived at a point of recognition of an old truth—namely, that neither markets nor states suffice to order a decent way of life in common. So if we ask: Why civil society? Why now?—we are drawn, first, to a consideration of civil society as a concept with a long and uneven history. For the political philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, for...

  16. Chapter 12 Schooling and Religious Pluralism
    (pp. 279-296)
    Alan Wolfe

    “The Catholic school system . . . is a no-man’s-land in American education,” wrote Paul Blanshard in his best-sellingAmerican Freedom and Catholic Powerof 1949. Blanshard, briefly a Congregationalist minister before embarking on a career as a journalist and aide to New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, decided to visit this terra incognita and to report back to the American people what he found. His account was not encouraging. Unlike public schools, which, Blanshard wrote, are run democratically by elected school boards,” Catholic schools are governed by a “tightly controlled hierarchy.” Catholics say that they believe in academic...

  17. Chapter 13 Religion and Education: American Exceptionalism?
    (pp. 297-325)
    Charles L. Glenn

    The world of K–12 schooling in the United States is regularly troubled by controversies over religion. “School wars” (as they were often called) of this sort were a primary focus of political life in Europe in the nineteenth century, but they are so no longer. How did France and Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, and other Western democracies manage to get beyond these troubling issues? Why does public life in the United States have such difficulty accommodating the diverse religious concerns of parents?

    Controversies over American education occur on two quite distinct levels. Policy specialists, education organizations, and business...

  18. Chapter 14 Risking Choice, Redressing Inequality
    (pp. 326-343)
    Joseph P. Viteritti

    Gunnar Myrdal called it the “Great American Dilemma.” He described the dilemma as a moral one, manifested by the nation’s failure to reconcile the democratic “American creed” of liberty, equality, justice, and fair opportunity with what was referred to in 1944 as “the Negro problem.”¹ Although the term is no longer in fashion, the problem is still very much with us. Racial inequality remains the most glaring blemish on the face of American democracy. At its core is an inequality in education defined by race, an inequality that persists in both opportunity and achievement. Not only is education the most...

  19. Contributors
    (pp. 344-346)
  20. Index
    (pp. 347-358)