Does God Belong in Public Schools?

Princeton University Press
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Controversial Supreme Court decisions have barred organized school prayer, but neither the Court nor public policy exclude religion from schools altogether. In this book, one of America's leading constitutional scholars asks what role religion ought to play in public schools. Kent Greenawalt explores many of the most divisive issues in educational debate, including teaching about the origins of life, sex education, and when--or whether--students can opt out of school activities for religious reasons.

Using these and other case studies, Greenawalt considers how to balance the country's constitutional commitment to personal freedoms and to the separation of church and state with the vital role that religion has always played in American society. Do we risk distorting students' understanding of America's past and present by ignoring religion in public-school curricula? When does teaching about religion cross the line into the promotion of religion?


Tracing the historical development of religion within public schools and considering every major Supreme Court case, Greenawalt concludes that the bans on school prayer and the teaching of creationism are justified, and that the court should more closely examine such activities as the singing of religious songs and student papers on religious topics. He also argues that students ought to be taught more about religion--both its contributions and shortcomings--especially in courses in history. To do otherwise, he writes, is to present a seriously distorted picture of society and indirectly to be other than neutral in presenting secularism and religion.


Written with exemplary clarity and even-handedness, this is a major book about some of the most pressing and contentious issues in educational policy and constitutional law today.

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About the author

Kent Greenawalt is University Professor teaching at the Columbia University School of Law, and a former Deputy Solicitor General of the United States. He is the author of Religious Convictions and Political Choice, Private Consciences and Public Reasons, Fighting Words (Princeton), and Religion and the Constitution: Volume 1: Free Exercise and Fairness (also Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 10, 2009
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9781400826278
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Aims & Objectives
Education / Educational Policy & Reform / General
Law / Educational Law & Legislation
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Balancing respect for religious conviction and the values of liberal democracy is a daunting challenge for judges and lawmakers, particularly when religious groups seek exemption from laws that govern others. Should students in public schools be allowed to organize devotional Bible readings and prayers on school property? Does reciting "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance establish a preferred religion? What does the Constitution have to say about displays of religious symbols and messages on public property? Religion and the Constitution presents a new framework for addressing these and other controversial questions that involve competing demands of fairness, liberty, and constitutional validity.

In this second of two major volumes on the intersection of constitutional and religious issues in the United States, Kent Greenawalt focuses on the Constitution's Establishment Clause, which forbids government from favoring one religion over another, or religion over secularism. The author begins with a history of the clause, its underlying principles, and the Supreme Court's main decisions on establishment, and proceeds to consider specific controversies. Taking a contextual approach, Greenawalt argues that the state's treatment of religion cannot be reduced to a single formula.


Calling throughout for acknowledgment of the way religion gives meaning to people's lives, Religion and the Constitution aims to accommodate the maximum expression of religious conviction that is consistent with a commitment to fairness and the public welfare.

Much has changed in the area of school law since the first edition of The Educator's Guide was published in 1986. Successive editions grew incrementally longer to keep abreast of legal developments. In this new eighth edition, the authors have streamlined the discussion by pruning older material and weaving in new developments. The result is an authoritative source on all major dimensions of Texas school law that is both well integrated and easy to read.

Intended for Texas school personnel, school board members, interested attorneys, and taxpayers, the eighth edition explains what the law is and what the implications are for effective school operations. It is designed to help professional educators avoid expensive and time consuming lawsuits by taking effective preventive action. It is an especially valuable resource for school law courses and staff development sessions.

The eighth edition begins with a review of the legal structure of the Texas school system. As Chapter 1 notes, education law is a complex interweaving of state and federal constitutional, statutory, administrative, and judicial law. It is important to understand the nature of the system before reading other sections.

Successive chapters address attendance and the instructional program, the education of children with special needs, employment and personnel, expression and associational rights, the role of religion in public schools, student discipline, open meetings and records, privacy, search and seizure, and legal liability under both federal and Texas law. In addition to state law, the book addresses the role of the federal government in school operation through such major federal legislation as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Statute and case references are kept as simple as possible, and a complete index of case citations is included for those readers who wish to consult the cases themselves. The appendices describe how case law is reported and where to find it, along with a glossary of legal terms and a listing of other sources on Texas school law.

Balancing respect for religious conviction and the values of liberal democracy is a daunting challenge for judges and lawmakers, particularly when religious groups seek exemption from laws that govern others. Should members of religious sects be able to use peyote in worship? Should pacifists be forced to take part in military service when there is a draft, and should this depend on whether they are religious? How can the law address the refusal of parents to provide medical care to their children--or the refusal of doctors to perform abortions? Religion and the Constitution presents a new framework for addressing these and other controversial questions that involve competing demands of fairness, liberty, and constitutional validity.

In the first of two major volumes on the intersection of constitutional and religious issues in the United States, Kent Greenawalt focuses on one of the Constitution's main clauses concerning religion: the Free Exercise Clause. Beginning with a brief account of the clause's origin and a short history of the Supreme Court's leading decisions about freedom of religion, he devotes a chapter to each of the main controversies encountered by judges and lawmakers. Sensitive to each case's context in judging whether special treatment of religious claims is justified, Greenawalt argues that the state's treatment of religion cannot be reduced to a single formula.


Calling throughout for religion to be taken more seriously as a force for meaning in people's lives, Religion and the Constitution aims to accommodate the maximum expression of religious conviction that is consistent with a commitment to fairness and the public welfare.

From one of the foremost authorities on education in the United States, former U.S. assistant secretary of education, “whistle-blower extraordinaire” (The Wall Street Journal), author of the best-selling The Death and Life of the Great American School System (“Important and riveting”—Library Journal), The Language Police (“Impassioned . . . Fiercely argued . . . Every bit as alarming as it is illuminating”—The New York Times), and other notable books on education history and policy—an incisive, comprehensive look at today’s American school system that argues against those who claim it is broken and beyond repair; an impassioned but reasoned call to stop the privatization movement that is draining students and funding from our public schools.
​In Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch argues that the crisis in American education is not a crisis of academic achievement but a concerted effort to destroy public schools in this country. She makes clear that, contrary to the claims being made, public school test scores and graduation rates are the highest they’ve ever been, and dropout rates are at their lowest point.

​She argues that federal programs such as George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top set unreasonable targets for American students, punish schools, and result in teachers being fired if their students underperform, unfairly branding those educators as failures. She warns that major foundations, individual billionaires, and Wall Street hedge fund managers are encouraging the privatization of public education, some for idealistic reasons, others for profit. Many who work with equity funds are eyeing public education as an emerging market for investors.
​Reign of Error begins where The Death and Life of the Great American School System left off, providing a deeper argument against privatization and for public education, and in a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, putting forth a plan for what can be done to preserve and improve it. She makes clear what is right about U.S. education, how policy makers are failing to address the root causes of educational failure, and how we can fix it.

​For Ravitch, public school education is about knowledge, about learning, about developing character, and about creating citizens for our society. It’s about helping to inspire independent thinkers, not just honing job skills or preparing people for college. Public school education is essential to our democracy, and its aim, since the founding of this country, has been to educate citizens who will help carry democracy into the future.
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