THE AMERICAN DREAM AND THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Jennifer L. Hochschild, . . Oxford Univ., $30 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-19-515278-4
Until recent conservative attacks on the institution, public schooling in America was widely perceived as the ticket to the American dream: economic success, a meaningful and self-chosen life path and full citizenship. But in spite of decades of reform, the dream remains an elusive one for increasing numbers of poor, minority and immigrant young people. The problem, according to Hochschild and Scovronick, professors of government and educational policy at Harvard and Princeton, respectively, is an inherent contradiction at the heart of American educational goals. Our choices—whether about school funding, choice, vouchers, bilingual education, desegregation or special education (all topics covered thoroughly in the book)—pit the success of individuals (often wealthier, privileged students) against the common good of all students or the nation as a whole. How to resolve this tension, so that "no child will be left behind," is the theme woven through this exceptionally readable book. Many current works about educational policy are narrowly political in their intention or thinly disguised assaults on public education. In contrast, this well-researched, up-to-date and balanced look at hot-button issues examines all sides of the debates while not losing sight of the democratic purposes of schooling. These authors have done their homework and they don't have an axe to grind. They ask readers to take seriously the challenge to create an educational system that provides genuine equality of opportunity for every child, and that might put the American dream within reach of everyone in today's multicultural America.
Reviewed on: 02/03/2003