Tuesday, February 6, 2018

For structural pluralism in education

"We need not pine for an era when a generic, superficial Protestantism was taken for granted by most Americans," writes Boston University professor emeritus Charles Glenn ("Can We Stop Fighting Over Schools?").
In the contemporary American scene, despite the cultural hegemony of an intolerant secularism, the social elements for constructing vigorous alternative institutions and communities are by no means lacking. Indeed, they have been stimulated by the collapse of the post-war “Judeo-Christian” cultural dominance. The challenge is to give principled policy support to this rich pluralism of convictions.
Here we could usefully look to the example of the Netherlands. In the nineteenth century, Dutch society was roiled by decades-long conflicts over schools. Protestants and Catholics vigorously resisted the efforts of liberal elites to impose a common set of beliefs through the schools operated by local government. The solution that brought a permanent “pacification” to these conflicts was the adoption of structural pluralism in education (and in other sectors of social and cultural life) that permitted educators to provide schooling based on a variety of worldviews and gave parents the right to choose among those schools without financial penalty. Today, about 70 percent of Dutch children attend schools that are not operated by government. Academic outcomes are strong, and education is not a focal point of political conflict. ...
Most other nations with advanced levels of universal schooling provide public support to faith-based schools with no evident harm to their social fabric and with considerably less conflict over schooling than occurs in the United States. Surely the time has come for a similar American “pacification,” through adoption of principled pluralism as the fundamental and equitable structure of our education system.

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