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What should the civic purposes of education be in a liberal and diverse society? Is there a tension between cultivating citizenship and respecting social diversity? What are the boundaries of parental and state authority over education?
Linking political theory with educational history and policy, Rob Reich offers provocative new answers to these questions. He develops a liberal theory of multicultural education in which the leading goal is the cultivation of individual autonomy in children. Reich draws out the policy implications of his theory through one of the first sustained considerations of homeschooling in American education. He also evaluates three of the most prominent trends in contemporary school reform—vouchers, charter schools, and the small school movement—and provides pedagogical recommendations that sharply challenge the reigning wisdom of many multicultural educators.
Written in clear and accessible language, this book will be of interest to political theorists, philosophers, educators, educational policymakers, and teachers.
[You] cannot dedicate yourself to America unless you become in every respect and with every purpose of your will thorough Americans. You cannot become thorough Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. America does not consist of groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American, and the man who goes among you to trade upon your nationality is no worthy son to live under the Stars and Stripes.
President Woodrow Wilson, "Message to Newly Naturalized Citizens"In a highly charged atmosphere of intolerance for racial and ethnic minorities, a widely respected educator entered an impassioned plea in a national magazine for respect and tolerance of those from other cultures. Arguing that Americans were a people "international and interracial in [their] makeup," he concluded that "the genuine American, the typical American, is himself a hyphenated character." Addressing his thoughts to other educators, he wrote, "[T]he American is himself Pole-German-English-French-Spanish-Italian-Greek-Irish-Scandanavian-Bohemian-Jew- and so on....And this means at least that ourpublic schools shall teach each factor to respect every other, and shall take pains to enlighten all as to the great past contributions of every strain of our composite makeup." These are sentiments that any educator would recognize today as a standard salvo in the debate over multiculturalism. Yet these words were written in 1916 by John Dewey, just one year after President Wilson's message to newly naturalized citizens. Worried about the Americanization campaigns sweeping across the land, Dewey, along with other intellectuals of the era, sought to defuse the tension by begging for greater understanding of America as a place of multiple cultural composition.
The English Bible, in some way or other, has, ever since the settlement of Cambridge, been read in its public schools, by children of every denomination; but in the year 1851, the ignorant immigrants, who have found food and shelter in this land of freedom and plenty, made free and plentiful through the influence of these very scriptures, presume to dictate to us, and refuse to let their children read as ours do, and always have done, the Word of Life. The arrogance, not to say impudence, of this conduct, must startle every native citizen, and can not but hope that they will immediately take measures to teach these deluded aliens, that their poverty and ignorance in their own country arose mainly from their ignorance of the Bible.The aliens to whom the editorial refers were most certainly Irish Catholics. To the ever-increasing number of Catholics flooding America's shores, however, the Protestant cast of common schools was an outright affront. As immigration from Ireland, and, to a lesser degree, Germany, brought thousands of Roman Catholics to America each year, the voices of protest rose dramatically. Some immigration statistics illustrate the rapidity of the Catholic arrival in America and give a hint as to the proximate cause of the coming culture clash between Protestants and Catholics in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1820 there were 200_000 Catholics in America, up from 35_000 in 1790. But in the next decade 200_000 more arrived from Europe, and then, fleeing the Irish Potato Famine in 1845-47, another 780_000 came ashore in the next decade. By 1850 there were over 2 million Catholics in America, still a small minority of the total population, but large enough to make the Catholic Church the largest religious body in the land.
Excerpted from Bridging Liberalism and Multiculturalism in American Education by Rob Reich Copyright © 2002 by Rob Reich. Excerpted by permission.
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1. A Short History of Cultural Conflict in American Education
2. A Multicultural Critique of Liberalism
3. A Liberal Critique of Multiculturalism
4. Minimalist Autonomy
5. A Liberal Theory of Multicultural Education
6. Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority over Education: The Case of Homeschooling
7. Pedagogical and Policy Implications