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Democratic VistasReflections on the Life of American Democracy$
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Jedediah Purdy, Anthony Kronman, and Cynthia Farrar

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780300102567

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300102567.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use.date: 19 May 2022

Taking Democracy to School

Taking Democracy to School

(p.99) 5 Taking Democracy to School
Democratic Vistas

Richard H. Brodhead

Yale University Press

This chapter examines the history of democratic schooling partly to understand why that history should be problematic and partly to underline that those problems do indeed have a history—that they are in some cases far older and more enduring than modern consciousness might suppose. Since Thomas Jefferson envisioned a public school system as a way of cultivating civic virtue and meritocracy, and Horace Mann proposed common schools as a way to impart civic unity in an age of immigration and factory labor, reformers have imagined the schools as the forge of democratic life. However, the schools do not operate under the best of circumstances. Besides the persistent problems of insufficient funding and profound inequality in the social and economic backgrounds of their students, the schools are asked to serve two democratic masters: the democratic value of meritocracy and individual opportunity, on the one hand, and the democratic value of equality, on the other. We sometimes suppose that because these are “democratic” ideals, they must be compatible. In fact, to advance one is often to compromise the other. This point is illustrated using the example of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

Keywords:   democracy, public schools, education, schooling, civic virtue, democratic life, meritocracy, equality, SAT

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