The politics of race and gender is characterized by a diversity of perspectives and profound disagreement about what the major problems are, their causes and solutions. Indeed, what defines the new politics of race and gender is dissatisfaction with conventional liberal solutions, the search for new policy alternatives, and the ensuing dissension over means and ends. The reason for this dissension and re-examination of old assumptions and solutions seems clear: the continuing failure of our school system to provide for females and minorities the educational opportunities that lead to successful and productive lives.
The multiplicity of perspectives and the emergence of new coalitions and policy alternatives made editing this volume a challenge. It was a struggle to bring order to the cacophony of debates on race and gender. At the same time, however, the volume presented an opportunity to take stock of the current political environment from a variety of disciplinary and theoretical perspectives concerning the politics of race and gender. Editorial decisions (for example, to include several chapters that provide an opportunity for international comparison, to not include the politics of homosexuality, even though it is about gender, to not include post-secondary race and gender issues, even though there are raging political debates at this level) were attempts to make the volume cohere. Philosophical, curricular and political clashes over ‘multicultural’ issues are not emphasized, although they emerge in the chapters on the trade-offs and clash of interests in curriculum (Cody et al.), student culture (Anderson and Herr) and special schools (Alston).
Finally, this volume goes to press just as a new regime considers initiatives in the United States. Is there a mandate for a return to liberal agendas for school politics? Will there be a new coalition of business, education professionals and liberals who protect the public school mission and demand that equity values be pursued? Will there be new initiatives with altered assumptions?
The diversity of voices on race and gender is due, in large part, to the decline of the liberal consensus favoring equity that shaped federal policy in the mid-1960s, and the rise of a new conservative consensus. The principal reasons for this philosophical and political sea change were threefold: the collapse of the welfare state because of economic stagnation and conflict over an expensive and unpopular war; the resultant inability of the federal government to ‘buy off’ contending parties, thus pitting them against each other in a new zero-sum game; and the ensuing white resentment of federal policies