Education and Social Change: Themes in the History of American Schooling

Education and Social Change: Themes in the History of American Schooling

Education and Social Change: Themes in the History of American Schooling

Education and Social Change: Themes in the History of American Schooling

Synopsis

In this brief, interpretive history of American schooling, John Rury focuses on the evolving relationship between education and social change. The book considers the impact of social forces, such as industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and cultural conflict on the development of schools and other educational institutions. It also examines the various ways that schools have contributed to social change, particularly in providing avenues of social mobility and success for certain social groups and not for others. Detailed accounts of the experiences of women and minority groups in American history explain how their lives have been affected by education.

Excerpt

Education and social change are facets of experience that sometimes affect our lives in dramatic fashion. As I was completing the final steps in preparing this book, the tragic September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington shocked the nation. This was a singular event, in terms of both its savagery and its impact on the world. It also represented an unusually poignant moment, one that juxtaposed the mores and bearing of modern civilization against those wishing for a more traditional and illiberal society. The individuals and organizations that planned and executed this barbaric act imagined themselves fighting the forces of social change that they associated with the United States in particular, and with Western civilization in general. Even though it was not among the immediate targets, a part of what they objected to was the contemporary educational system and its role in perpetuating and extending modern society.

In some respects the connection between education and the September 11 tragedy was quite direct. Many commentators have observed the irony in these terrorists' use of current technology and sophisticated communication and coordination strategies to effect their deadly plans. They employed the instruments and the techniques of modern society to attack it, and to do this they required schooling. This included both technical training and more general education in the organization and execution of complex operations. The leaders of the attack were highly literate, sophisticated, and systematic. Although they saw themselves as battling the forces of modernity, these extremists were required to learn the critical, rationalistic, and calculating modalities that have come to characterize today's society, and to do so within institutions of formal instruction. Even in the case of this terrible tragedy born of conflict, it is possible to see education and social change as inextricably tied to one another.

The devastation of September 11 also revealed how we often have taken the conditions of modern life for granted. We fly in airplanes, work in skyscrapers, and communicate instantly across vast distances. We publicly object to discrimination, celebrate principles of equality, and cherish the idea . . .

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