CULTURE WARS: School and Society in the Conservative Restoration 1969-1984 by Ira Shor

CULTURE WARS: School and Society in the Conservative Restoration 1969-1984

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A liberal examines recent attempts by conservatives and the business community to restore authority, discipline, and career orientation to American public schools. In the late 1960's, businessmen, alarmed by classes that encouraged the young to think critically about such ""anti-business"" concepts as environmentalism, consumerism, and job safety, began distributing probusiness films, teacher's guides and other materials to schools. The federal government got into the act in 1971 with a call for expanded vocational education in secondary schools and community colleges along with ballooning increases in federal aid for such programs. Nixon, says Shor, believed that career-oriented training would reduce discontent and rebellion among America's young. One effect was the gutting of liberal-arts courses in community colleges to finance expansion of more costly vocational training classes. This, claims Shor, delighted conservatives, who, he says, are congenitally suspicious of education that trains the young to think critically. The next education reform movement was triggered in 1975 by alarms about declining scores attained by college-oriented high schoolers taking the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT). This became the ""Literacy Crisis,"" which produced a back-to-basics call for more classroom discipline and greater emphasis on the Three R's. It also produced a widespread house-cleaning of innovative high-school elective courses and other ""frills. ""Then came a spate of reports in 1983 that claimed American schools and colleges were falling behind those of Japan and other industrialized countries in training the young to compete in an increasingly scientific-technological world. Their authors called for greater emphasis on mathematics, science, computer skills, higher-order reasoning and standardized English; vocational training and the overemphasis on basics were blamed for America's latest educational plight. All of these reforms, says Shor, reflect a conservative swing in the nation that would keep minorities in low-level jobs, repress dissent, bolster business, and fuel the military-industrial complex. Shor contends that it is not the classroom but society that needs a major overhaul. With corporations investing heavily overseas, and with un. employment at a high level, young people, he says, foresee an adulthood of diminishing prospects. According to Shot, the American Dream is no more; and no tinkering with our schools alone will restore it. Although the crusade to restore religion to the classroom is mentioned only in passing, Shor presents a valuable rundown of the recent theories from both right and left that have affected the schools in one way or another. Recommended for any and all interested in education.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1985
Publisher: Routledge & Kegan Paul