A brief for ""separation of school and state""--exactly how, Axons isn't ready to say--that draws upon both radical left...


COMPELLING BELIEF: The Culture of American Schooling

A brief for ""separation of school and state""--exactly how, Axons isn't ready to say--that draws upon both radical left opposition to institutionalized dominant-class conformism (the Illich-Freire position) and Christian right opposition to institutionalized secular humanism (see McCarthy, Skillen & Harper, below). Section by section, the argument goes as follows: 1) families are in conflict for control of ""public-school culture"" (witness the rash of censorship battles), to the detriment of teachers, school boards, and students; 2) parents who want to educate their children at home encounter obstruction; 3) subcultures that wish to establish their own schools are also unduly harried (""the structure of American schooling is not more hospitable to group dissent than it is to individual dissent""); 4) since ""schooling cannot be made value-free,"" government-run or regulated education is unconstitutional--if we but expand the First Amendment ""protection of expression of belief and opinion to embrace formation of belief and opinion."" Arons--director of the Department of Legal Studies at the U. of Massachusetts--advisedly cites the Supreme Court prohibition of the flag salute in schools, as well as the 1979 Kentucky decision ""that the state could not legally impose textbook, teacher certification, or curriculum standards upon private schools"" (on the basis that accreditation standards were pedagogically meaningless). He might also have cited a recent Louisiana decision on home instruction. Nonetheless, the book's content is thin and its argument narrow. Axons, seeing American society as devoid of common values, education as without intrinsic shape or substance, parents as the final arbiters of what their children should learn, and conflict as inherently undesirable, plumps for pluralistic fragmentation--though he does not endorse any of the remedies (like tuition tax credits) thus far proposed, nor consider the consequences. A straw in the wind, but flimsy.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1982