Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools

Princeton University Press
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This book compares two challenges made to American public school curricula in the 1980s and 1990s. It identifies striking similarities between proponents of Afrocentrism and creationism, accounts for their differential outcomes, and draws important conclusions for the study of culture, organizations, and social movements.

Amy Binder gives a brief history of both movements and then describes how their challenges played out in seven school districts. Despite their very different constituencies--inner-city African American cultural essentialists and predominately white suburban Christian conservatives--Afrocentrists and creationists had much in common. Both made similar arguments about oppression and their children's well-being, both faced skepticism from educators about their factual claims, and both mounted their challenges through bureaucratic channels. In each case, challenged school systems were ultimately able to minimize or reject challengers' demands, but the process varied by case and type of challenge. Binder finds that Afrocentrists were more successful in advancing their cause than were creationists because they appeared to offer a solution to the real problem of urban school failure, met with more administrative sympathy toward their complaints of historic exclusion, sought to alter lower-prestige curricula (history, not science), and faced opponents who lacked a legal remedy comparable to the rule of church-state separation invoked by creationism's opponents.

Binder's analysis yields several lessons for social movements research, suggesting that researchers need to pay greater attention to how movements seek to influence bureaucratic decision making, often from within. It also demonstrates the benefits of examining discursive, structural, and institutional factors in concert.

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About the author

Amy J. Binder is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 10, 2009
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781400825455
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Comparative
Education / Philosophy, Theory & Social Aspects
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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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Amy J. Binder
""Becoming Right" vividly illustrates how conservative students experience the university--and how these experiences differ by campus. This beautifully written book is a must read for anyone who seeks to understand the political socialization of conservative leaders and the sources of cleavages within contemporary conservative politics. Appealing to a wide audience, this is a powerful and original approach to the analysis of undergraduate life."--Elizabeth Armstrong, University of Michigan

"Social scientists have paid surprisingly little attention to conservative college students. "Becoming Right" remedies this with a penetrating analysis of the diverse political styles that can be found among students on the right, and of the campus settings that foster them. This important contribution to political sociology and the sociology of higher education has lessons to teach all readers about the complexity of the conservative movement and the passions of conservative collegians."--Neil Gross, University of British Columbia

"Offering a fascinating and nuanced portrait of young conservatives and their political commitments, Binder and Wood provide invaluable insight into this important but overlooked segment of American politics. Their analysis also illuminates the ways in which universities shape political identity and behavior, and is certain to stimulate new inquiries into the formation of political culture."--Julie A. Reuben, Harvard University

"The rise of conservatism on campus has been a central priority of well-funded think tanks and advocacy groups in their efforts to keep the pipeline full of potential leaders for each new generation. This splendid study of the contemporary campus right fills a huge gap in the public's understanding of the most recent wave of conservative cadre building."--Paul J. DiMaggio, Princeton University

""Becoming Right" marshals novel, nuanced material to depict styles of conservative political organization at two U.S. universities. The big finding is that organizational context matters--a lot--for how undergraduates come to think of themselves as political subjects, how they act and react toward their campuses, and how they imagine their own futures. This book clearly demonstrates that political actors are made, not born."--Mitchell L. Stevens, Stanford University

Amanda Ripley
How do other countries create “smarter” kids? What is it like to be a child in the world’s new education superpowers? The Smartest Kids in the World “gets well beneath the glossy surfaces of these foreign cultures and manages to make our own culture look newly strange....The question is whether the startling perspective provided by this masterly book can also generate the will to make changes” (The New York Times Book Review).

In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy. Inspired to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embed­ded in these countries for one year. Kim, fifteen, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, eighteen, trades his high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, seventeen, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for Poland.

Through these young informants, Ripley meets battle-scarred reformers, sleep-deprived zombie students, and a teacher who earns $4 million a year. Their stories, along with groundbreaking research into learning in other cultures, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these countries had many “smart” kids a few decades ago. Things had changed. Teaching had become more rigorous; parents had focused on things that mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education.
Amy J. Binder
""Becoming Right" vividly illustrates how conservative students experience the university--and how these experiences differ by campus. This beautifully written book is a must read for anyone who seeks to understand the political socialization of conservative leaders and the sources of cleavages within contemporary conservative politics. Appealing to a wide audience, this is a powerful and original approach to the analysis of undergraduate life."--Elizabeth Armstrong, University of Michigan

"Social scientists have paid surprisingly little attention to conservative college students. "Becoming Right" remedies this with a penetrating analysis of the diverse political styles that can be found among students on the right, and of the campus settings that foster them. This important contribution to political sociology and the sociology of higher education has lessons to teach all readers about the complexity of the conservative movement and the passions of conservative collegians."--Neil Gross, University of British Columbia

"Offering a fascinating and nuanced portrait of young conservatives and their political commitments, Binder and Wood provide invaluable insight into this important but overlooked segment of American politics. Their analysis also illuminates the ways in which universities shape political identity and behavior, and is certain to stimulate new inquiries into the formation of political culture."--Julie A. Reuben, Harvard University

"The rise of conservatism on campus has been a central priority of well-funded think tanks and advocacy groups in their efforts to keep the pipeline full of potential leaders for each new generation. This splendid study of the contemporary campus right fills a huge gap in the public's understanding of the most recent wave of conservative cadre building."--Paul J. DiMaggio, Princeton University

""Becoming Right" marshals novel, nuanced material to depict styles of conservative political organization at two U.S. universities. The big finding is that organizational context matters--a lot--for how undergraduates come to think of themselves as political subjects, how they act and react toward their campuses, and how they imagine their own futures. This book clearly demonstrates that political actors are made, not born."--Mitchell L. Stevens, Stanford University

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