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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More than one million American children are schooled by their parents. As their ranks grow, home schoolers are making headlines by winning national spelling bees and excelling at elite universities. The few studies conducted suggest that homeschooled children are academically successful and remarkably well socialized. Yet we still know little about this alternative to one of society's most fundamental institutions. Beyond a vague notion of children reading around the kitchen table, we don't know what home schooling looks like from the inside.

Sociologist Mitchell Stevens goes behind the scenes of the homeschool movement and into the homes and meetings of home schoolers. What he finds are two very different kinds of home education--one rooted in the liberal alternative school movement of the 1960s and 1970s and one stemming from the Christian day school movement of the same era. Stevens explains how this dual history shapes the meaning and practice of home schooling today. In the process, he introduces us to an unlikely mix of parents (including fundamentalist Protestants, pagans, naturalists, and educational radicals) and notes the core values on which they agree: the sanctity of childhood and the primacy of family in the face of a highly competitive, bureaucratized society.



Kingdom of Children aptly places home schoolers within longer traditions of American social activism. It reveals that home schooling is not a random collection of individuals but an elaborate social movement with its own celebrities, networks, and characteristic lifeways. Stevens shows how home schoolers have built their philosophical and religious convictions into the practical structure of the cause, and documents the political consequences of their success at doing so.


Ultimately, the history of home schooling serves as a parable about the organizational strategies of the progressive left and the religious right since the 1960s.Kingdom of Children shows what happens when progressive ideals meet conventional politics, demonstrates the extraordinary political capacity of conservative Protestantism, and explains the subtle ways in which cultural sensibility shapes social movement outcomes more generally.

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.
In the decades following World War II, American scientists were celebrated for their contributions to social and technological progress. They were also widely criticized for their increasingly close ties to military and governmental power--not only by outside activists but from among the ranks of scientists themselves. Disrupting Science tells the story of how scientists formed new protest organizations that democratized science and made its pursuit more transparent. The book explores how scientists weakened their own authority even as they invented new forms of political action.

Drawing extensively from archival sources and in-depth interviews, Kelly Moore examines the features of American science that made it an attractive target for protesters in the early cold war and Vietnam eras, including scientists' work in military research and activities perceived as environmentally harmful. She describes the intellectual traditions that protesters drew from--liberalism, moral individualism, and the New Left--and traces the rise and influence of scientist-led protest organizations such as Science for the People and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Moore shows how scientist protest activities disrupted basic assumptions about science and the ways scientific knowledge should be produced, and recast scientists' relationships to political and military institutions.



Disrupting Science reveals how the scientific community cumulatively worked to unbind its own scientific authority and change how science and scientists are perceived. In doing so, the book redefines our understanding of social movements and the power of insider-led protest.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Brazil struggled to rebuild its democracy after twenty years of military dictatorship, experiencing financial crises, corruption scandals, political protest, and intense electoral contention. In the midst of this turmoil, Ann Mische argues in this remarkable book, youth activists of various stripes played a vital and unrecognized role, contributing new forms of political talk and action to Brazil's emerging democracy.

Drawing upon extensive and rich ethnography as well as formal network analysis, Mische tracks the lives of young activists through intersecting political networks, including student movements, church-based activism, political parties, nongovernmental organizations, and business and professional organizations. She probes the problems and possibilities they encountered in combining partisan activism with other kinds of civic involvement. In documenting activists' struggles to develop cross-partisan publics of various kinds, Mische explores the distinct styles of communication and leadership that emerged across organizations and among individuals.


Drawing on the ideas of Habermas, Gramsci, Dewey, and Machiavelli, Partisan Publics highlights political communication styles and the forms of mediation and leadership they give rise to--for democratic politics in Brazil and elsewhere. Insightful in its discussion of culture, methodology, and theory, Partisan Publics argues that partisanship can play a significant role in civic life, helping to build relations and institutions in an emerging democracy.

The first edition of Finnish Lessons won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in Education in 2013. It was featured inThe New York Times, The Washington Post, The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, The Guardian, CNN, Education Week, The Huffington Post, and Dan Rather Reports and has been translated into 16 languages.

Now, with Finnish Lessons 2.0, Pasi Sahlberg has thoroughly updated his groundbreaking account of how Finland built a world-class education system during the past four decades. In this international bestseller, Sahlberg traces the evolution of Finnish education policies and highlights how they differ from the United States and much of the rest of the world. Featuring substantial additions throughout the text, Finnish Lessons 2.0 demonstrates how systematically focusing on teacher and leader professionalism, building trust between the society and its schools, and investing in educational equity rather than competition, choice, and other market-based reforms make Finnish schools an international model of success. This second edition details the complexity of meaningful change by examining Finland’s educational performance in light of the most recent international assessment data and domestic changes.

This second edition details the complexity of meaningful change by illustrating Finland’s educational performance in light of the most recent international assessment data, including PISA 2012, TIMSS 2011, PIAAC 2013, and TALIS 2013.

In the midst of continuous local reforms and global changes, Finnish Lessons 2.0 encourages educators, students, and policymakers to look beyond their own borders as they seek successful solutions for their education systems, districts, and schools.

“Reminds us that a nation can consciously build an admirable school system if it pays close attention to the needs of children; if it selects and prepares its educators well; and if it builds educational communities that are not only physically attractive but conducive to the joys of teaching and learning.”
—From the Foreword by Diane Ravitch, author of Reign of Error

“Solidifies Sahlberg’s reputation as the most thoughtful international educational researcher of our generation.”
—David Berliner, Regents' Professor Emeritus, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University

“Whether or not you have read Finnish Lessons, you should read and ponder this new edition right away.”
—Howard Gardner, author of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed

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