Book Review

Curriculum, Religion, and Public Education: Conversations for an Enlarging Public Square

Reviewed by William G. Keane
Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Oakland University,
Rochester, Mich.

 

The wars over the content of the curriculum may be nearing an end. Unfortunately, one of the casualties of the battles may be public schools (labeled "government schools" by those who feel they have lost the fight). The drumbeat for vouchers has begun, and charter schools are becoming homogeneous preserves for the disaffected.

And what have the wars been about? For some in America, nothing less than the meaning of life. One of the many thoughtful and well-informed authors in this fair book argues that it is not possible for "… a secular curriculum to be genuinely neutral with respect to religion. Any genuine education … inevitably rests on particular religious or metaphysical views regarding the nature of the good life and the good society."

James T. Sears, professor of curriculum studies and higher education at University of South Carolina, and James C. Carper, associate professor of educational foundations at the same university, provide a useful approach in Curriculum, Religion, and Public Education to explaining the intractability of so many conflicts over the content of curriculum.

Writers describing four philosophical points of view lay the groundwork for subsequent essays about what values schools may advocate, how publishers decide what content to include in textbooks, sex education, outcome-based education and controversies over the teaching of evolution.

The book concludes on a hopeful note. Says one author: "Unity is not born of common culture but of collective endeavor."

(Curriculum, Religion, and Public Education: Conversations for an Enlarging Public Square, edited by James T. Sears with James C. Carper, Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y., 290 pages with index, $25 softcover)