CLASSROOMS IN THE CROSSFIRE by Robert M. O'Neil

CLASSROOMS IN THE CROSSFIRE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Subtitled The Rights and Interests of Students, Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Librarians, and the Community, this solid volume describes the process by which a body of law concerning school curricula has developed. O'Neil, author of previous works on law and the state (The Price of Dependency, 1970; Discriminating Against Discrimination, 1976), begins with a review of the factors that contributed to the ""veritable explosion of lawsuits"" during the late Sixties and early Seventies: new courses dealing with sensitive issues and taught with innovative methods; changing parental expectations and growing frustration; the growth of censorship; experiments in decision-making regarding the schools; increased accessibility of the courts. From there the focus shifts to controversial cases central to the relationship between the Constitution and the schools. In the area of freedom of religion, O'Neil explores such issues as: the teaching of creationism in biology classes (an issue far from dead); the posting of the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls (at private expense); even the teaching of TM in the public schools of New Jersey (is TM a religion? The courts said yes). Also scrutinized, as they relate to First Amendment rights, are the removal of material from courses of study (on the basis of objectionable content, of religious content, etc.) and the dismissal of teachers from public school positions (for similar reasons). Throughout, O'Neil defines each issue closely, citing diverse cases to illuminate his points and raising questions not yet settled in the courts. In the area of school library law, for example, O'Neil first discusses patrons' established ""Constitutional claim of access"" to information, then raises questions regarding the librarian's role as, perhaps, the ""facilitator"" of authors' and readers' rights to free expression. Readers intent on purging a Holocaust curriculum, say, or on eliminating role-playing as a teaching method, will find scant encouragement here; O'Neil sees no ""peg"" upon which to base a finding of unconstitutionality, and recommends working for such changes through political and administrative processes. However, those interested in both the extent and limits of the law concerning curricula, in its broadest sense, will find this a valuable resource.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1981
Publisher: Indiana Univ. Press