Politicians and Educational Ideologies

  • Human Capital Theory is the predominant theoretical influence within the American educational system (Spring, 2010, p. 118)
  • “Culture Wars” exist within the American educational system between conservative and liberal social values, which began in the 1960’s (p. 118)
  • Republican Party began using emotional appeals towards conservative values as election rhetoric since the 1960’s, whereas Democrats lean towards a more egalitarian narrative in elections.
  • Cultural Conservatism and American Exceptionalism

  • American Exceptionalism -- “the history of the United States has been guided by the hand of a Christian God and that the country’s unique and superior set of republican values should be spread around the world” (Spring, 2010, p. 120)
  • American exceptionalism often translates into competitiveness and the passing on of cultural values.
  • Conservative Social Values and Education:

  • Conservatives want to promote
  • “Patriotism
  • A positive view of American history
  • Traditional, religious-based morality
  • Unified American Culture” – (Spring, 2010, p. 120)
  • Conservatives criticize liberals for opposing or attacking traditional values being taught in schools, such as creationism.
  • Conservatives call for “celebratory and patriotic history” that does not expose the nation’s flaws. (Spring, 2010, p. 124)
  • Conservatives in Education

  • Lynne Cheney – called for a more positive characterization of American history in textbooks
  • Diane Ravitch – promoted creating academic standards
  • Dinesh D’Souza (American Enterprise Institute) – argued that multiculturalism and feminism were “destroying liberal education” as they replaced writing by White males with “inferior books written by minorities and women” (Spring, 2010, p. 123)
  • Liberal Cultural Values and Multiculturalism

    There are constant culture wars in our political system. Republicans/conservatives advocate American exceptionalism,  while Democrats/liberals advocate equality & access.

    Liberals support multicultural viewpoints: sexual freedom, internationalism, government programs, and the general idea of multiculturalism.  

    The History of Multiculturalism in America

    - Bilingual Education Act of 1968: Sponsored by Democratic senator Ralph Yarborough. It said that students should be taught in their heritage language & in English

    - Bilingual Education Act reauthorized in 1974: Added the student's culture to education requirements.

    - There was such disharmony that the Act's purpose was clarified in the 1980s: , “It is not the purpose of the bill to create pockets of different languages throughout the country…not to stamp out the mother tongue and not to make their mother tongue the dominant language, but just to try to make those children fully literate in English.” (Spring, 2010, p. 125)

    - In 1976-1980, Democratic President Carter backed bilingual and bicultural education publicly, then privately withdrew his support, showing that even liberals are ambivalent about multiculturalism.

    - Democrats in the 1980s minimally supported “bilingual instruction without any reference to biculturalism or multiculturalism” (Spring, 2010, p. 126)

    - Gene T Chaves, president of the National Association for Bilingual Education, accused those who did not support multiculturalism of having a political agenda rather than an educational perspective.

    -In the 1990s, instead of supporting multi- or bi- cultural education, Democrats gave their support to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and renamed the Bilingual Education Office to the Office of English Acquisition.

    President Obama “criticized the media’s portrayal of cultural wars.” (Spring, 2010, p. 127) He claimed that America was constantly evolving and that there is constant change. Obama argued that the Democratic agenda is central to American beliefs:

    • - Equal opportunity & possibility of social and economic success
    • - The right to the pursuit of happiness (or “individual self-interest” (Spring, 2010, p. 128)
    • - Having community & family values
    • - Being a patriot & citizen
    • - Faith & ethics
    • - Humanitarian values: “honesty, fairness, humility, kindness, courtesy, and compassion” (Spring, 2010, p. 128)

    Yet, the culture wars continue....

    Cultural Conservatives, Moral Instruction, and Evolution

    -Conservatives link exceptionalism to Christian values and are against any “secular notion” (Spring, 2010, p. 129)

    - Three Supreme Court rulings in the 1960-70s caused anger among conservatives:

    • 1. Engel v. Vitale in 1962, abolishing prayer in school
    • 2. Abington School District v. Schempp, abolishing Bible reading in school
    • 3. Roe v. Wade in 1973, making abortion legal.

    -In the 1980s, President Reagan backed the “Moral Majority” through the electronic church, where sermons were filmed and shown on television. The Moral Majority opposed evolution and Reagan further supported them by “endorsing legislation for a tuition tax credit…and promising to support a school prayer amendment.

    -This is how evangelical Christians and their agenda became “aligned” to the Conservative Republicans.

    -In 2008, Governor Sarah Palin was the “poster child” for evangelical values. She was wholesome, believed in Creationism, denied any human involvement in environmental problems, and believed in abstinence until marriage.

    Cultural Liberals and Moral Values

  • Ideological differences between secular-leaning cultural liberals and religious-oriented cultural conservatives that can affect cultural issues
  • Struggle over sex education and abortion
  • Liberals support teaching about birth control and women’s right to an abortion
  • Gay marriage added another element to the ideological divisions
  • Free Markets and School Choice

    I. Answering the question, “What is the best organization for teaching?”?” (Spring, 2010, p. 132)

                         A. Conservatives

    1. The Free Market: parental choice and competition between schools

    2. Based in part to the works of economists Friedrich Hayek (free market) and Milton Friedman (vouchers)

    3. No Child Left Behind (2001) included provisions to support school choice and “for-profit” companies

    Liberals and Regulated Markets

    I. Oppose public funding of private and religious schools

    II. In favor of public school choice

    A. Government regulated to ensure fairness and equity

    B. President Obama called for the lifting of charter school caps

    Cultural Conservatives: Poverty is a Matter of Character in a Free Market

  • Free market allows for equal opportunity and an escape from poverty
  • Poverty is the result of character flaws
  • Inability to exploit the American economic system
  • Not a result of growing up in poor social and economic conditions
  • “Compassionate conservatism” (Spring, 2010, p. 137)
  • Influences come from the work of Marvin Olasky, Professor of Journalism at University of Texas and editor of weekly news magazine the Christian and author of two books(Spring,2010,p.139).
  • Olasky blames government welfare for worsening the moral conditions of the poor(Spring,2010,p.139).
  • Believes that the answer to the problem is to return welfare programs to faith-based organizations.
  • No Child Left behind supports funding for faith-based organizations(Spring,2010,p.140).
  • Conservatives stress the importance of “Character education” in order to prepare students for success.
  • Legislation actually identified the following elements of character as important for functioning of American society (Spring,2010,p.140):
  • Caring
  • Civic virtue and citizenship
  • Justice
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Trustworthiness
  • Giving
  • For Conservatives, schools can help individuals escape poverty by instilling values of hard work and discipline (Spring,2010,p.141).
  • Cultural Liberals: Poverty and Equal Education Opportunity

  • Cultural Liberals do not reject the conservative concerns with developing character
  • Liberals emphasize providing equality of education via government-funded programs (Spring,2010, p.141).
  • Liberals see compensatory and preschool education as a remedy
  • In 2001 emphasis on compensatory education was dropped when secondary education act was reauthorized as No Child Left Behind (Spring,2010, p.142).
  • Another proposed liberal remedy for poverty is preschool education (Spring,2010, p.142).
  • Argue that preschool can instill traits for success in schools which lead equality of opportunity
  • President Obama supports universal preschool education because it can have the greatest impact in reducing the achievement gap.
  • Conclusion: Human Capital and Alternative Ideologies

  • Liberal and conservatives both encompass the goal of the human capital model with some variations depending on their cultural views (Spring,2010, p.143).
  • An alternative ideology is that of the Green Party or independent party.
  • The green party strongly believes that art intuitions are key to community well-being
  • The green party advocates for a diverse system of education which include (Spring,2010, p.144):
  • The wonders of nature
  • Eco-education
  • Eco-economics
  • Eco-politics
  • Eco-Culture
  • Green ideology advocates for creative and noncompetitive education (Spring,2010, p.145).
  • Green ideology also advocates for the inclusion of Cultural diversity in the curriculum
  • The green party also believes that decision making should be up to the the teachers and principals (grassroots level)
  • Other educational ideologies found in alternative private schools are (Spring,2010, p.146) :
  • Human rights and environment curricula
  • Radical educational ideologies
  • These alternative educational ideologies reject the call a for public school systems that educates workers to compete in global markets (Spring,2010, p.146).
  • Discussion Questions

  • What are your thoughts on school choice? What do you think public schools can do (e.g., curricular or structural changes, etc.) to counter the negative effects of school choice? How has your school reacted (from a policy perspective) to the increase in charter schools?
  • Can a balance be struck between celebrating patriotism and exposing a nation’s flaws  in history teaching? How would conservatives react to this notion?
  • Do you believe that the causes of poverty are due to a matter of character or due to the lack of equality educational opportunities? Please explain your answer and provide a possible solution to reduce the rate of poverty in society.
  • References:

    Spring, J. (2010). The Politics of American Education. New York City, NY: Routledge.

    Comment Stream

    2 years ago

    What are your thoughts on school choice? What do you think public schools can do (e.g., curricular or structural changes, etc.) to counter the negative effects of school choice? How has your school reacted (from a policy perspective) to the increase in charter schools?

    2 years ago

    For the record, I graduated from a private high school, Edison Private School in Hialeah. My mom sent me there to escape from the failing (in 1977) Henry H. Filer public school. Edison was a blessing to me. While neither a military school nor a Catholic school, it shared characteristics of both--with a marching parade to celebrate Cuban patriot Jose Marti's birthday on January 28th of each year, and prayers recited in the mornings and before lunch. Edison's teachers instilled a sense of accomplishment and pride in my work. Academics was very high on the school's priority. After graduation, whenever I applied to a college club or scholarship, I always saw how impressed the directors were that I had attended Edison. (P.S.: Luis Sanchez, director of the English Language Institute here at FIU was my English teacher in 1977.)

    We were not rich. My mom and dad were factory workers, and I worked as a bagboy in Winn-Dixie. We lived in a small 1-bedroom apartment in Hialeah, which they rented for twenty years. Together, we paied for my six years at Edison (from 7th through 12th grades).

    I will always be appreciative to Edison Private School for helping to make me the man I am today. I feel the public schools have many huge hurdles to overcome to be on the same par as private schools.

    2 years ago

    --Elio L. Arteaga