Ideological Management as Educational Philosophy: Reflection on Joel Spring's Analysis of the American School

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Ideological Management as Educational Philosophy: Reflection on Joel Spring's Analysis of the American School

It is no secret that Joel Spring is highly critical of the ideological lens through which modern education has developed. Spring (2005), in his sixth edition of The American School: 1642-2004, coins this lens as ideological management, defined as "the effect of political and economic forces on the ideas disseminated to society" (p. 4). As a result of ideological management, those who have power and wealth in our country shape the current educational system, including parochial schools, and those who do not are still desperately fighting for an equitable education.

To use Spring's terminology, the Anglo American use of ideological management through cultural imperialism has been extremely damaging and equally difficult to overcome (p. 3). Victims of the prejudices disseminated throughout American society include, but are certainly not limited to, Native Americans, Irish Catholics, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, Cuban Americans, Jewish Americans, Japanese Americans, Chinese Americans, Somali Americans, Hmong Americans, Communist Americans, impoverished Americans, disabled Americans, gay and lesbian Americans, American women, and immigrants of ever-changing national origin.

All of these groups (and more) have been seen by Protestant, privileged, heterosexual male, Anglo Americans as threats to the American way of life due to their perceived inherent inferiority, and consequently, have endured institutionalized persecution, including, but no limited to, segregation and cultural genocide. This has not only created a deep chasm of inequality, resentment and fear but, also equally, the mission to build a bridge through which equality and unity can be reached.

The question, which Spring has implicitly asked, remains: how do culturally responsible educators committed to equity help build this metaphorical bridge between the privileged and the persecuted with the goal of eliminating injustice? One answer is through awareness and self-reflection. Educators must be willing to examine their school environments and their own practices, espoused philosophies and practiced pedagogies, in order to locate and eliminate injustice in our schools and society.

Educators must ask themselves tough questions. First, am I willing to promote equality and justice and why? Second, what prejudices, attitudes and beliefs-based on Allport's (1954) comprehensive theory of the roots of prejudice (pp.6-17)-do I harbor within myself? Third, what practices within my school environment cause, or are based on, inequality, and how do I promote change in these areas? Fourth, what practices do I employ in my classroom that are inequitable or promote stereotypes of people, and how can I change them? Fifth, in what ways can I promote awareness of others, and help students question the beliefs and attitudes that inform their behavior?

Spring's analysis of educational history pushes me to think critically about these questions within my school environment and myself. Yet, I must express my disappointment in Spring's analysis of the history of education in regard to three major issues related to ideological management: (a) students with special needs, (b) funding our schools, and (c) implicit meanings in Spring's terminology.

First, Spring clearly leaves out most, if not all, of the history of special education. My disappointment in this oversight is twofold. First, students with special needs have historically been seen as inferior, and, therefore, unworthy of proper and equitable education. Groups who advocate for students with special needs fight just as hard today as fifty years ago, when educators finally saw the necessity of educating these groups or a hundred years ago, when they were simply institutionalized and ignored.

Secondly, students with special needs have fought the same battles of invisibility, segregation, and persecution that most minority groups have. …