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Visions of Schooling

Visions of Schooling: Conscience, Community, and Common Education

Rosemary C. Salomone
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Visions of Schooling
    Book Description:

    At no time in the past century have there been fiercer battles over our public schools than there are now. Parents and educational reformers are challenging not only the mission, content, and structure of mass compulsory schooling but also its underlying premise-that the values promoted through public education are neutral and therefore acceptable to any reasonable person. In this important book, Rosemary Salomone sets aside the ideological and inflammatory rhetoric that surrounds today's debates over educational values and family choice. She offers instead a fair-minded examination of education for democratic citizenship in a society that values freedom of conscience and religious pluralism. And she proposes a balanced course of action that redefines but does not sever the relationship between education and the state.Salomone demonstrates how contemporary conflicts are the product of past educational and social movements. She lays bare some of the myths that support the current government monopoly over education and reveals how it privileges those of economic means. Through a detailed case study of recent controversy in a suburban New York school district, the author explores the legal and policy issues that arise when widely disparate world views stand in the way of political compromise on educational materials, techniques, and programs. Salomone builds a case for educational governance that places the developmental needs of the child at the center of family autonomy. She advances a plan that respects diverse values and visions of schooling while preserving the core commitments that bind our nation.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12915-1
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    In recent years, reports of a national culture war have saturated the popular press and academic journals.¹ Commentators warn us that opposing forces are waging a fierce political struggle for the heart and soul of America, potentially threatening the Republic itself. Common values and ideals rooted in shared religious beliefs and nationalistic spirit have lost their resonance, we are told.² Admittedly some of this discussion has begun to wear thin with exaggeration. Some even sounds faintly apocalyptic. Nevertheless, the truth remains that our diverse values are shaking our national identity to the core and eroding our understanding of those values...

  5. Chapter 2 The Common School: Past as Prologue
    (pp. 10-41)

    Throughout the twentieth century, the concept of government-controlled and -supported education has held worldwide appeal for its benefits to society and to the individual alike. Education is both a symbol and a practical engine for preserving national unity and identity. Nations use the educational process to develop civic virtue and a national character through a shared set of values reflected in the school curriculum and to reap the economic benefits derived from an educated citizenry. By making education compulsory, government institutionalizes its authority. By making it universal, the state affords individuals the opportunity to realize their potential to the fullest...

  6. Chapter 3 From Children’s Rights to Parents’ Rights
    (pp. 42-74)

    Discourse on children generally revolves around two interrelated issues. The first addresses the distribution of decisional power among the child, the parent, and the state. The second involves interest balancing among the child, the parent, and either a particular segment of society or society at large. Discourse on education, on the other hand, typically reverts to a traditional liberal mode projecting a direct relation between the individual child and the state in which the interests of the child are merged with those of the parent. In recent years, however, the debate over educational values has refocused the discourse as between...

  7. Chapter 4 The Supreme Court as Schoolmaster
    (pp. 75-104)

    By the close of the nineteenth century, a truce seemingly had been reached in the religious wars over schooling in America. Catholics and Lutherans had retreated into separate schools while the common school had commandeered the full share of educational tax revenues and had grown increasingly secular in focus. This multilayered political compromise would prove periodically unstable in the coming years in the face of resurging nativism and anti-Catholicism following World War I, a dramatic loosening of the public school curriculum from its moral moorings through the 1960s and 1970s, and a marked revival of Christian fundamentalism toward the close...

  8. Chapter 5 Voices of Dissent
    (pp. 105-141)

    The Supreme Court’s continued reluctance to mediate the national culture wars over values in the schools has not stemmed the tide of litigation moving through the lower courts. Parents draw upon the arsenal of rights developed in the Court’s earlier decisions and pressure schools to reflect, or at aminimumto accommodate, their particular moral values and religious beliefs within the public school setting. Accommodation can mean exemption from a textbook, materials, practice, or program with or without alternative instruction. It can also mean the removal of materials or the elimination of a program or practice.

    Most but not all challenges to...

  9. Chapter 6 Struggling with Satan
    (pp. 142-196)

    So began a full-page advertisement in local newspapers in Westchester County, New York, in November 1995. Signed by upward of nine hundred parents and residents of the Bedford Central School System, the notice was a passionate defense of the district’s teachers, administrators, and curriculum: “Our teachers do not have a pro-pagan or prowitchcraft agenda. Teaching about historical events is not promoting evil. . . . We live in a world that is much larger and more diverse than our community, and it is an important goal to educate our children with understanding. We support the Bedford Central School’s vision “providing...

  10. Chapter 7 Education for Democratic Citizenship
    (pp. 197-227)

    The Supreme Court has repeatedly instructed the American public that the ultimate objective of publicly supported primary and secondary education is to prepare the young for democratic citizenship. One can safely assume widespread agreement on this broad, state-directed objective, although most Americans would look for a balance of individual self-fulfillment. The case law, however, reveals far less agreement over the specific skills, traits, and knowledge necessary for maintaining the democratic state. This disagreement frequently emanates from deeply held convictions, convictions grounded most often but not always in religious beliefs which conflict with the pervasively secular values of the common school....

  11. Chapter 8 Re-Envisioning Common Education
    (pp. 228-266)

    Values-based educational claims have met minimal success in the courts. The judiciary has vacillated between incredulity and hostility in addressing parental challenges, leaving any hope for meaningful resolution to local administrative discretion and state legislative reform. Yet the underlying significance and potential implications of the problem seem to have eluded most state and local officials. Unless named as defendants in a lawsuit, they tend to dismiss such conflicts as isolated eruptions unrelated to larger issues of school governance and educational purposes. The most visible movement on this front has come from private organizations that have begun to chart a tentative...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 267-272)

    The concept of common schooling is built on a shared vision of education. It is also built on shared values and a common civic purpose which each succeeding generation conveys to the next. The cultural conflicts that have arisen over the past several decades raise the question of how we may remain true to this principle of regeneration without allowing our history necessarily to bind our destiny.

    Conflicts over educational values are indeed controversial, politically divisive, and difficult to resolve administratively or judicially. They cut to the core of the common school concept and lay bare its questionable assumptions and...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 273-316)
  14. Index
    (pp. 317-329)