Book Review

The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling

Reviewed by Ann S. Keim,
Superintendent, Pequea Valley
School District, Lancaster County, Pa.


As the rhetoric of school reform continues to focus on the private purposes of schooling, the critical public role of schools in promoting the ideals of our American democracy has all but been forgotten. The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling, edited by John Goodlad and Timothy McMannon, is a collection of eloquent essays about the meaning and value of the larger social purpose of education.

Seven prominent educators and scholars offer their ideas, many passionately, about the vital links between education and a civil society. Ted Sizer’s essay on "The Meanings of Public Education," for example, offers a critical look at the concept of both "public" and "education" and ends with a rationale for his belief that "public education is central to the promise of American democracy."

Roger Soder, co-director of the Center for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington at Seattle, offers thought-provoking ideas from our country’s history in "Democracy: Do We Really Want It?" And there are five more equally idealistic essays.

The last third of the book is a transcript of the contributors as they participated in a spirited and informative panel discussion on the same topic. They debate the fundamental ideals that govern schooling, make a compelling case for renewed commitment to public education, propose an expanded mission for education and offer a framework for leading the charge for school reform.

While impassioned, the book contains many practical lessons. While erudite in places, there is a great deal of valuable information here.

(The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling, edited by John I. Goodlad and Timothy J. McMannon, Jossey-Bass Publisher, 350 Sansome St., San Francisco, Calif. 94104, 1997, 178 pp. with index, $27.95 hardcover)