The idea for this book originated in a collaboration of European and American scholars interested in education and civil society, which was sponsored in part by a Trans-Coop grant from the German–American Academic Council (GAAC). The project resulted in two conference in 1997 and 1998, the first in Boston hosted by the Institute for Economic Culture at Boston University, the second in Göttingen, Germany, in 1998 hosted by the Center for Europe- and North-America Studies at the University of Göttingen. We thank Charles Glenn and Peter L. Berger in Boston, and Horst Kern and Peter Loesche in Göttingen for generous support and hospitality. Thanks also to our editors at Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Naomi Silverman and Lori Hawver, and to Bonnie Johnson and Huaying Zhang (at Penn State and SUNY Albany, respectively) whose skill and patience helped see this project through to the end.
At the center of this book is the question how education should be organized in pluralistic and multicultural societies. The shift from an assimilationist view of culture to one of cultural pluralism marks one of the most profound social changes in contemporary Western societies, and educational governance structures have so far not kept pace. At a time when many other social sectors exhibit diverse mixtures of public, private, voluntary, and compulsory organizational structures, education is still largely a single-provider sphere with government as the main actor. Under these conditions we believe it important to broaden our views of legitimate forms of educational organization and to inquire into the roles of civil society, markets, governments, and the family in education. How can the idea of the civil society help to reorient education policy discussions that are sometimes stuck in either–or juxtapositions of “market versus government” or “individualism versus communitarianism”? What are some of the traditions of civil society–across countries and across history–that educators and policy-makers today can revive or build on?
These are some of the questions at the center of this book. Its goal is to further our understanding of how we can accommodate cultural, ethnic, and religious pluralism in a political and conceptual framework that is sufficiently flexible to combine choice with equity, and a commitment to a shared civil and political culture with openness to exploring and affirming the distinct ethnicity, race, creed, or culture of different groups.