The initial studies for this book were done in 1984-85, during a sabbatical year. Having come to the conclusion that the most powerful educative channels had long since passed from the hands of those who called themselves educators, I decided to study the question of influences from its broadest angle, that of culture. My problem was where to begin. I had done some reading on culture, but none of it helped me answer my questions. It did not give me a fundamental way of thinking about culture that related it to the concrete situations of everyday life.
Possibly because of my background in the sociology of religion, I was drawn to Raymond Williams's writings on culture, which looked at culture more through a sociological lens than an anthropological one. Starting with Williams The Sociology of Culture, I worked my way backward and forward through his many writings. Williams answered many of my questions and opened me to a new way of thinking about reality. Still, for every question answered, new ones opened up. I found myself needing a more systematic way of applying the principles by which culture could be seen and questions answered. Could I work one out for myself? If I succeeded, would it then be possible to present this method in language accessible to others: secular educators, theologians, religious educators, religious practitioners? In my mind I kept coming back to a model for such a presentation of method, the simple one Joe Holland and Peter Henriot had outlined in their 1980 work, Social Analysis: Linking Faith with Justice. Their booklet gave a general but educated audience access to a rudimentary kind of social analysis.
And so this book began as a way of talking to myself, of pushing further against my own questions. One of the biggest problems I had in writing it