The American Dream and the Public Schools

The American Dream and the Public Schools

by Jennifer L Hochschild, Nathan Scovronick
     
 

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The American Dream and the Public Schools examines issues that have excited and divided Americans for years, including desegregation, school funding, testing, vouchers, bilingual education, and ability grouping. While these are all separate problems, much of the contention over them comes down to the same thing--an apparent conflict between policies designed to…  See more details below

Overview

The American Dream and the Public Schools examines issues that have excited and divided Americans for years, including desegregation, school funding, testing, vouchers, bilingual education, and ability grouping. While these are all separate problems, much of the contention over them comes down to the same thing--an apparent conflict between policies designed to promote each students ability to succeed and those designed to insure the good of all students or the nation as a whole. The authors show how policies to promote individual success too often benefit only those already privileged by race or class, and often conflict with policies that are intended to benefit everyone. They propose a framework that builds on our nations rapidly changing population in order to help Americans get past acrimonious debates about schooling. Their goal is to make public education work better so that all children can succeed.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
At the heart of the Hochschild-Scovronick argument is an underappreciated truth about Americans' contradictory feelings toward public education. "The American dream promises equality of opportunity to poor people and people of color and provides legitimacy to those who prefer to keep most of their resources to help their own children," Hochschild and Scovronick write. They show how hard it is to reconcile those desires and suggest a middle course that casts doubt on the potential of choice programs, like charter schools and vouchers, to help many students, but endorses the regular testing and accountability programs that are under such heavy attack from professional educators. — Jay Mathews
Publishers Weekly
Until recent conservative attacks on the institution, public schooling in America was widely perceived as the ticket to the American dream: economic success, a meaningful and self-chosen life path and full citizenship. But in spite of decades of reform, the dream remains an elusive one for increasing numbers of poor, minority and immigrant young people. The problem, according to Hochschild and Scovronick, professors of government and educational policy at Harvard and Princeton, respectively, is an inherent contradiction at the heart of American educational goals. Our choices-whether about school funding, choice, vouchers, bilingual education, desegregation or special education (all topics covered thoroughly in the book)-pit the success of individuals (often wealthier, privileged students) against the common good of all students or the nation as a whole. How to resolve this tension, so that "no child will be left behind," is the theme woven through this exceptionally readable book. Many current works about educational policy are narrowly political in their intention or thinly disguised assaults on public education. In contrast, this well-researched, up-to-date and balanced look at hot-button issues examines all sides of the debates while not losing sight of the democratic purposes of schooling. These authors have done their homework and they don't have an axe to grind. They ask readers to take seriously the challenge to create an educational system that provides genuine equality of opportunity for every child, and that might put the American dream within reach of everyone in today's multicultural America. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
At the heart of the American dream lie two conflicting ideals: individual success vs. the enrichment of society as a whole. These two ideals also form the crux of the current debates over school choice, school reform, bilingual education, and other divisive issues facing public schools. In analyzing these debates, Hochschild (government and Afro-American studies, Harvard Univ.) and Scovronick (education policy, Princeton Univ.) make no secret of their own bias: they believe that the collective goals of public education should take precedence over individual achievement. Too much emphasis on the needs of particular individuals or groups, they argue, can undermine the collective good. By using policies proven to boost the success of disadvantaged students (e.g., desegregation, preschool education, and increased funding for schools in low-income areas), schools can also go a long way toward developing an informed, compassionate citizenry. Few states today are likely to spend their dwindling resources on the financial reforms suggested here, but some policymakers may be swayed by this perceptive, well-documented discussion. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Susan M. Colowick, North Olympic Lib. Syst., Port Angeles, WA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"A wonderfully vigorous defense of our public schools, which is at the same time a detailed, incisive, and illuminating analysis of everything that is wrong with them."--Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study, and editor of Dissent

"Examines all sides of the debates while not losing sight of the democratic principles of schooling."--Publishers Weekly

"Addresses nearly every educational policy issue of importance and brings a welcome balance and fairness to the debate."--The Washington Post

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199839681
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
08/13/2004
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
801,868
File size:
2 MB

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Meet the Author

Jennifer Hochschild is Professor of Government at Harvard University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Afro-American Studies and the author of Facing Up to the American Dream. Nathan Scovronick teaches education policy and directs the undergraduate program at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

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