GOING PUBLIC by Judith Rényi


Schooling for a Diverse Democracy
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 Yet another call to retool the American classroom, but this time preceded by a thoughtful review of the historical forces at work in the schools. Philadelphia-based RÇnyi is the director of CHART (Collaboratives for Humanities and Arts Teaching). When public schooling took hold in the US a little more than 150 years ago, the immigrant poor were not expected to finish the six or eight years of education available. It was assumed they would quickly drop out and go to work. According to the author, when education through high school became compulsory--generally after WW II--it ignited confusion and controversies that continue today. RÇnyi explores many of those issues, ranging from the Protestant religious tradition that helped to mold public schools through the dilution of the curriculum and the ``bland pudding'' of present-day textbooks to the attention-getting squabbles over bilingual education and multiculturalism at every level of education. Her careful examination of the radical changes in types of immigrants and patterns of socialization shows that earlier waves of immigrants were not only more closely attuned to the German/British style of education but were not expected to benefit fully from public education until the second or third generation. RÇnyi finds that new immigrants--and African-Americans--bring to schools a determined ethnicity that is unwilling to blend into the mythic melting pot. The argument over multicultural vs. traditional education is, the author says, ``...class warfare disguised as ideology.'' Nevertheless, she holds that a broad umbrella of traditional values--liberty and justice among them--can encompass a multitude of cultural reference points, teaching styles, and resources without relinquishing rigorous standards. A sometimes moving, sometimes illuminating, but often unfocused commentary--one that wants to de-emphasize ideology and that applauds the skilled, imaginative teacher tuned into the potential of curious children, whatever their ethnic backgrounds.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1-56584-083-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: New Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1994