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A thorough, magisterial account of a timely and historically important legal debate.

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A writer offers an analysis of government bans on religious attire worn by public school teachers. 

As Walker (Cultivating Empathy, 2016, etc.) observes, the perennial contest between political secularism and religious liberty is hardly new, but it seems to have hit a fevered pitch not just in the United States, but in Europe as well. The author astutely unpacks one controversial issue at the heart of that tension: the permissibility of a state to ban public school teachers from donning religious garb while they work. The focus of the author’s study is a landmark statutory law passed in the late 19th century that did precisely that (“The first such ban of religious garb was instituted in Pennsylvania in 1894 and was clearly directed toward Catholic nuns teaching in the public schools”). This law remains the only one of its kind unsuccessfully challenged in the U.S. Walker applies a five-step analytical process to the law—“scaffolding” the work—that begins with a “synthesized” battery of judicial tests organized around just cause. Additionally, he provides a searching account of the “quasquicentennial-old debate in the United States,” including a masterfully meticulous treatment of the relevant law and literature, the factual context, and a concluding legal analysis. The legal assessment focuses on the extent to which the Pennsylvania law potentially contradicts both the establishment of religion and the free exercise clauses of the First Amendment. The author finally concludes that the law is fundamentally indefensible on both counts. Among other reasons, it coercively “suppresses the religious identities of public servants” and favors some faiths over others. Walker’s credentials are unimpeachable: He’s the executive director of 1791 Delegates, a group of constitutional and human rights specialists. His command of the germane material—legal, historical, and even philosophical—is simply extraordinary. More than a legal argument, the book is a sweeping account of the nature of public education within a liberal democracy—its proper purposes and limitations. He also sensibly considers the broader international context, especially cases that have come before the European Court of Human Rights. The author’s argument is a complex one, but it’s written in the kind of accessible, jargon-free prose that should be digestible for even the layperson. 

A thorough, magisterial account of a timely and historically important legal debate.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-367-18830-6

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Routledge

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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