Reflections on Education as Transcendence


Published By

Stanford University Press, in "Reconstructing the Common Good in Education", page(s): 206-222


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For almost two centuries, Americans expected that their public schools would cultivate the personal, moral, and social development of individual students, create citizens, and bind diverse groups into one nation. Since the 1980s, however, a new generation of school reformers has been intent on using schools to solve the nations economic problems. An economic justification for public schoolsequipping students with marketable skills to help the nation compete in a global, information-based workplaceoverwhelmed other historically accepted purposes for tax-supported public schools.

Private sector management has become the model for public school systems as schools and districts are downsized, restructured, and outsourced. Recent reform proposals have called for government-funded vouchers to send children to private schools, the creation of self-governing charter schools, the contracting of schools to private entrepreneurs, and the partnerships with the business community in promoting new information technologies. But if there is a shared national purpose for education, should it be oriented only toward enhancing the countrys economic success? Is everything public for sale? Are the interests of individuals or selected groups overwhelming the common good that the founders of tax-supported public schools so fervently sought?

This volume explores the ongoing debates about what constitutes the common good in American public education, assessing the long-standing tensions between shared purposes and individual interests in schooling. It shows how recent school reform efforts, driven by economic concerns, have worsened the conflict between the legitimate interests of individuals and society as a whole, and demonstrates that reconstructing the common good envisioned by the founders of public education in the United States remains essential and unfinished work.

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