Friday, April 17, 2015

Dr. Stephen L. Carter ― Common Schools in a Fractured World

Stephen L. Carter, a Bloomberg View columnist, is a professor of law at Yale University, where he teaches courses on contracts, professional responsibility, ethics in literature, intellectual property, and the law and ethics of war.                 

(Bloomberg News)

“Are we still making citizens?” That’s the title of an important essay by Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, in the spring issue of the journal Democracy. Botstein worries that we nowadays “defend education in purely economic terms, linking education to work and productivity.” Instead, we should embrace afresh Horace Mann’s ideal of the common school, where education transforms “private individuals with diverse faiths and origins into equal citizens in a democracy.”

Botstein’s celebration of Mann’s vision is one I wish I could embrace. But it’s too late. The fracturing of the educational system is real, and accelerating. As Botstein notes, the victims are children -- poor and minority children in particular. The question is what to do about it.

Although Botstein identifies many causes -- relativism and the Internet, for example -- his principal villain is the private school. Here, I fear, he and I must agree to disagree.

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