The School And Society: The Schools We Need

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The School is an embedded institution. We talk about the "School in Society"� rather than "the School and Society."� Social change influences the School. We can't understand school without its societal context, which is a complex one.

Does the school merely reflect society or can it be an agent for change, giving direction to the larger society of which it is a part? The Schools We Need And Why We Don't Have Them begins in much the same way as many educational reform books of recent years. All is not well with our K-12 public schools. American students would be better equipped in the schools of Asia or Europe. E.D. Hirsch, after citing studies to substantiate these claims, proceeds to tie this reality with that which he purports to be the underlying cause; the philosophy of education called progressivism and the naturalistic educational theories and practices associated with it.

The author is a self-described political liberal (Hirsch, 1996, p. 6). He bemoans the fact that traditional, educationally conservative practices are inappropriately catalogued as an ideological subspecies of politico-socio-economic conservatism. He insists that political and educational ideologies are not related in this way. If they were, he argues, the progressive educational theories developed at Teachers College (Columbia), promoted in the first half of the last century and implemented ubiquitously throughout the 15,000 independent public school districts in the United States over the last 50 years would have resulted in the lifting up of the social and economic underclass. Hirsch cites studies showing that precisely the opposite has happened. There is actually a widening gap between the economically disadvantaged and the advantaged, resulting in growing inequality and social injustice.

Hirsch (1996) therefore argues for an inverse relationship between educational and social progressivism: Educational progressivism is a sure means for preserving the...