democratic politics and the culture of american education

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					Democratic Politics and the Culture of American Education
Author(s): Richard M. Merelman
Source: The American Political Science Review, Vol. 74, No. 2, (Jun., 1980), pp. 319-332
Published by: American Political Science Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1960628
Accessed: 30/07/2008 14:57


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      DemocraticPoliticsandthe Cultureof AmericanEducation
                                        RICHARDM. MERELMAN
                                                             Madison
                                       Universityof Wisconsin,

         This article argues that weaknessesin the school's socialization of democratic values can be
      traced to culturallypatternedstrainsin Americaneducation. Such strainsare culturaladaptations
      to a conflict betweeneducationalknowledgeand order,on the one hand,and egalitarian       politics in
      America, on the other. After treating a defective explanation for the school's weaknessas a
      democraticsocializationagent-the "hiddencurriculum       "approach-the articleoutlines the conflict
      between democraticpolitics and "the basic shape of schooling." The article concludes by tracing
      the deleteriouseffect of this conflict on teachers,curricula, students.
                                                                  and


    In 1916 John Dewey argued that a democra-             illustrates the point. Jennings', Ehman's, and
cy should pursue "a type of education which               Niemi's examination of the social studies class-
gives individuals a personal interest in social           room concludes that variations among teachers
relationships and control, and the habits of              have little impact on democratic political atti-
mind which secure social changes without                  tudes among students (1974, Ch. 8). If teaching
introducing disorder" (Dewey, 1916, p. 115).              styles seem ineffective, what about curricula?
As if in reply to Dewey, consider William                 The most comprehensive examination of cur-
Blake: "But to go to school on a summer                   ricular impact is that of Jennings and Niemi,
morn? 0 it drives all joys away/ Under a cruel            who write, "Our findings certainly do not
eye outworn/ The little ones spend their day/             support the thinking of those who look to the
In sighing and dismay" ("The Schoolboy").                 civics curriculum in American high schools as a
Blake's description of schooling could hardly be          major source of political socialization. When we
farther from Dewey's recommendation. Al-                  investigated the student sample as a whole we
though Blake wrote his lines 200 years ago, I             found not one single case out of the ten
stumbled across them in reading Phillip Jack-             examined in which the civics curriculum was
son's frontispiece to his influential Life in             significantly associated with students' political
Classrooms (1968); Jackson apparently believes            orientation" (1974, p. 205; see also Mercer,
that time has not diminished the truth of                  1973). Finally, what about the effects of
Blake's observation. The question remains:                curricula and students jointly considered? Per-
how can education strengthen the cooperative              haps we have been wrong to focus mainly upon
social conscience that lies at the heart of               individual teachers or individual students rather
Dewey's vision of democracy when the benefi-              than upon whole schools. After all, from the
ciaries of education consider themselves its              student's point of view schooling is a synthesis
victims, involuntarily bound in the harness of            of many experiences, not a collection of iso-
schooling? Can schoolchildren learn freedom               lated encounters with particular teachers or
and equality when schools enforce constraint,             subjects. But even this alternative does not
hierarchy, and inequality? It is this question-           avail. Jennings writes that when schools them-
broadly construed-that I address here.                    selves become the units of analysis, "classroom
    Though Blake might have been the last to              and curriculum leave but marginal residues on
take comfort from empirical social science,               the political character of high school students"
much of what we now know about "democratic                (Jennings, 1974, p. 406).
political socialization" accords with his insight.            Of course, as Willis Hawley points out
Simply put, schooling has yet to demonstrate              (1977, pp. 319-25), much relevant data remain
its contribution to the child's development of            outstanding. It is hard to believe the schools are
democratic values (Dawson, Prewitt, and Daw-              not having some impact on democratic values,
son, 1977, pp. 143-44). Pertinent research                even though research stubbornly refuses to
                                                          identify what that impact is. Nor do Americans
   This is a much-revised version of a paper presented    rely solely on schools for their democratic
at the Concordia International Conference on Re.          socialization; perhaps we become "democratic"
search Frontiers in Education, Concordia University,      despite the school's efforts. Nevertheless, there
Montreal, Canada, 1979. I am grateful to Fran Schrag,     appear to be a few successes in the school's
Gina Sapiro, Michael Olneck, Peter Eisinger, Murray       teaching of democratic values. For example,
Edelman, and Louise Merelman for comments along           marked interest in politics emerges in schools
the way.                                                  composed mainly of college-found students-
                                                    319
 320                       The AmericanPoliticalScienceReview                              Vol. 74
 even among less promising students. It is          itself from power-hungry leaders and thus
 unclear whether to attribute these effects to a    stabilize democratic institutions. Without ar
 "6trickle-down" process-with college-bound        informed, participating public, the creden
 students picking up participatory ideas from       tials-and the futures-of systems calling them
 their teachers and passing them along to other     selves democratic must be considered suspect
 students-or to a "bubble-up" process-with          The failures of democratic education are there
 teachers fitting their instruction to the ad-      fore failures of American politics-as well a,
 vanced capacities of their better students, and   puzzles for democratic theory (Dahl, 1956).
 thus unintentionallybenefitingpoor students as         In this article I reconsider the character ol
 well (Langton, 1969, Chs. 4-5). Either way,       democratic education in American schools.
 however, these findings solve nothing, for they   first argue that the dominant contemporary
 indicate only that the inefficacy of schools in   interpretation of failures in American democra
teaching democratic values may proceed as          tic education-the theory of the hidden curricu-
much from characteristicsof the student body       lum-is incomplete. I modify this theory by
as from the school itself. The point remains,      highlighting the conflict between a primarily
therefore, that as a planned enterprise in the     authoritarian context and the democratic con-
teaching of democratic values the American         tent common in American political education. I
public school's share in the general process of    then employ my modification to explain salient
democratic socialization appears at best suspi-    organizational, cultural, and educational fea-
ciously     problematic (Shaver, 1977, pp.         tures of American schooling-and to show why
300-07).                                           such schooling is so peculiarly self-defeating
    This problem must be viewed alongside          and ineffective.
another debate currently ragingin educational
circles: the debate about the relationship be-                 The Hidden Curriculum
tween schooling and occupationalachievement
in America.On the latter subject, too, Deweyan         The most widely-held contemporary expla-
"'naiveoptimism" has given way (see Ravitch,      nation for the weakness of democratic school-
 1978). Of course, we may lack our own             ing is the "hidden curriculum," a set of
ColemanReports, our Christopher    Jencksesand     common practices which, by teaching quite
our Michael Katzes, but our efforts should be      different behavior and power relationships,
seen in conjunction with theirs. In fact, though  supposedly prevents the transmission of demo-
conducted entirely independently, the two re-     cratic values in the school (Apple and King,
searchefforts-one into the effects of education    1977, pp. 108-27). It is alleged that the school
on democratic socialization, the other into the   teaches hierarchy, not democracy. Instead of
effects of education on student achievement       student power in the school we find teacher
and economic success-reach the same conclu-       control over curriculum and administrator con-
sion: namely, that the Americanschool leaves      trol over the school building. Instead of genuine
much to be desired. The two lines of research     equality among students we find invidious
combine to make a powerful criticism of           ability groupings (Keddie, 1971, pp. 133-61).
schools, for what Averch et al. say about         Instead of liberty for students we encounter
schooling in general appliesas well to schooling  constant surveillance. Instead of the "personal
and democraticvalues:                             interest in social relationships" envisaged by
   Research not identified variant the
            has               a         of        Dewey, we observe egoistic competition for
   existentsystemthat is consistently
                                    relatedto     grades, for status, and, ultimately, for admis-
   student outcomes.... Research has found        sion to "appropriate" colleges and universities.
   nothing that consistently and unambiguously    Instead of the democratic citizen's enjoyment
   makesa difference in student outcomes (1972,   of choice and spontaneity, we discover the dead
   p. x, emphasis original).
                in
                                                  hand of delay and queing (Jackson, 1968, Ch.
    But ours is not just an educationalproblem, 1), of teacher dictates, of a fixed, externally
for education is a major arenaof public policy. prescribed, stultifying curriculum. Behind the
Educational failures are, ipso facto, policy pretence of "democratic" socialization lurks
failures. Indeed, more even than policy is at the reality of closely supervised, standardized
stake. Whetheror not their faith was warranted, training where students fight each other in
generationsof political theorists and politicians order to please those in power. In sum, students
have looked to education to produce a demo- cannot learn democracy in the school because
cratic citizenry. Although Thomas Jefferson the school is not a democratic place (Cohen and
and Lawrence Kohlberg would disagree about Lazerson, 1977, pp. 133-61).
many things, they would surely agree on one           Though appealing in many ways, the hidden
point: that only such a citizenry can, protect curriculum argument does not provide a com.
 1980          Democratic Politics and the Culture of American Education                         321
prehensive explanation for the school's failure      Teachers cannot ignore problems of authority,
to teach democratic values. It cannot provide         of course, but an equally important aim for
such an explanation because it displays internal     many teachers, as Dreeben points out (1977,
flaws which demand correction. These prob-           pp. 544-49), is to develop students who are
lems embrace logic, description, concep-              active, purposeful, forceful, and assertive in
tualization, and inference.                           their pursuit of academic goals. This com-
                                                      ponent of teaching clearly conflicts with the
Logic. Let us begin with the problem of logic.       hidden curriculum's supposed encouragement
Suppose we find the majority of students in a         of submissiveness and passivity.
school apparently submitting to the school's             Moreover, in recent years authoritarian
hid den curriculum-identifying        with their     aspects of the hidden curriculum have come
teachers, competing with each other for grades,      under legal attack. Recent court decisions
conforming to authority. The hidden curricu-         establish important areas of student rights
lum is working, and therefore democratic so-         regarding political action within the school,
cialization cannot take place. Fair enough. But      grooming, and student publications (Fischer,
now suppose the opposite: that students hate          1977, pp. 249-63). Today's students are al-
their teachers, resent their school, and actively    most certainly less victimized by an authori-
protest against the hidden curriculum. These         tarian hidden curriculum than were their prede-
facts indicate the presence of alienation, and       cessors. How can such a divided hidden curricu-
alienation hinders schooling. Thus, both sub-        lum be held responsible for the school's failure
mission and resistance among students demon-         to socialize democratic values effectively?
strates the hidden curriculum to have prevented          Finally, many descriptions of the hidden
democratic socialization in the school (Young,       curriculum are insufficiently sensitive to prob-
1971).                                               lems of comparison. For example, how does the
    The logical flaw in this position fairly jumps   authoritarianism of the hidden curriculum fit
out at the reader. The hidden curriculum             within the culture from which students are
argument becomes non-falsifiable if neither          drawn? It is possible that the hidden curriculum
acceptance nor rejection of schooling can dis-       is actually less authoritarian than the students'
pute it. Non-falsifiable positions may be true,      cultural background, in which case one can
of course, but it is impossible to believe them      hardly hold the hidden curriculum responsible
so without the intervention of faith. And the        for the absence of democratic attitudes among
requirement of faith is not a virtue in most         students. Take an example. Some writers draw
social science quarters.                             an implicit contrast between what they take to
                                                     be the authoritarianism of the school and what
Description. There are also problems of descrip-     they take to be the democracy of working-class
tion. Simply put, description of the hidden          culture, a comparison which leads them to
curriculum as uniformly repressive is wrong.         conclude that the hidden curriculum effectively
Any reader of Philip Cusick's Inside High            turns innocent working-class democrats into
School, an ethnographic account of a middle-         cynical authoritarians. A reading of Paul Willis'
class American high school, might be impressed       Learning to Labour (1977) is a useful corrective
by the amount of freedom students carve out          for such romanticism. Racism, sexism, and
for themselves in school. As Cusick puts it,         glorification of violence permeate the culture of
"The school ... provides an enormous amount           Willis' English working-class boys. In compari-
of time when students are actually required to        son with these values, the awkward autocracy
do little other than be in attendance and            of the hidden curriculum becomes, if anything,
minimally compliant. It is this that provides        a modest step toward democracy (Glock et al.,
 [the students] with the time to carry on their       1975, pp. 61-103).       The point is simple:
group activity, and their group activity seems to    antidemocratic sentiments can be found in all
consume over half the school day" (1973, p.          cultures and all social classes. Therefore, the
214). Indeed, if teachers attempt to impose an       presence of antidemocratic attitudes among
authoritarian hidden curriculum on students,         students does not demonstrate the impact of
students return the favor by attempting to           the hidden curriculum, even if such a curricu-
impose a lenient hidden curriculum of their          lum is authoritarian.
own on teachers (Cusick, 1973; see also Swift,           A related mistake is also common: some
1971, pp. 3 1-65).                                   hidden curriculum theorists exaggerate the dif-
    But this observation is itself misleading, for   ference between the messages the hidden cur-
it assumes that respect for authority is upper-      riculum conveys and the messages contained in
most in teachers' minds and that failures in this    student culture. As Harold Entwhistle argues,
regard are due solely to student resistance.         the culture of working-class students and the
 322                         The American Political Science Review                                 Vol. 74
  culture of a middle-class school are not as            appearance and, for boys, athletics, the sacrifice
  opposed as hidden curriculum theorists claim.          of scholastic performance for social popularity,
  Working-class people generally favor order and         the appeal of fraternities and sororities-all
  discipline, a view shared by teachers from             middle-class American counterparts of the vi-
  working-class origins who often become prime           olence, the racism, the sexual exploitation, and
 exponents of an authoritarian hidden curricu-           the pseudo-masculinity of Willis' British work-
 lum. As Entwhistle points out, "If teachers            ing-class students (Coleman, 1961, Chs. 2-5,
 with working-class origins typically resent low-        10). Students, whatever their class or nationali-
 er-class students and despise their cultural           ty, find ways of protecting themselves from
 values, the explanation may lie in phenomena           curricula.
 related to working-class stratification itself, not        Why these problems of inference from the
 in the middle-class values" (1978, p. 48).             presence of a practice to its supposed effect?
                                                        One reason is that hidden curriculum theorists
  Inference. The third problem in the hidden            resemble those who write about democratic
  curriculum argument is inferential. Hidden cur-       socialization in their devotion to what Ted
  riculum theorists infer that because the school       Tapper has termed a "monolithic" conception
 renders students dependent, students accept            of socialization (Tapper, 1976, p. 15), in which
 their dependency. Much evidence disputes such          socialization agents carefully coordinate their
 a view, even for those students who have most          activities. Were socialization monolithic in this
 to gain by remaining dependent. Consider the           sense, merely to identify a schooling practice
 fact, for example, that it was academically            might be enough to demonstrate its effective-
 successful students who during the 1960s led           ness. But the assumption itself seems to over-
 rebellions against the school (Keniston, 1973).       simplify a quite complex reality.
 Is this the picture of a hidden curriculum                 Equally important, however, is the fact that,
 effectively creating a passive, dependent-albeit       from the student's viewpoint, the "hidden
 advantaged-clientele? I think not.                    curriculum" is not really hidden at all. As
     Of course, it may be that academically            Michael Apple and Nancy King point out,
 successful students retain the personal resources     public schools in America have always empha-
 necessary to challenge the hidden curriculum,         sized their intention to teach discipline, obedi-
 and that dependency and conformity are clus-          ence, and conformity. Teachers still explain at
 tered among "slow" learners, whose egos may           length (and with heat) to students the benefits
 have been irreparably damaged by failure in the       supposedly to be derived from acceptance of
 scholastic competition that is so conspicuously       the hidden curriculum: the virtues of prompt-
 part of the hidden curriculum. But this is not        ness, neatness, and respect for authority, for
 so. In his study of academically backward             example. Such exhortations not only sensitize
 English working-class students in a boy's             students to the presence of a "hidden curricu-
 school, Willis shows that "the lads" effectively      lum," but also suggest, unintentionally of
resist the hidden curriculum. These students are       course, that sloth, laziness, and defiance can
not dependent, they do not feel themselves to          subvert the curriculum (Apple and King, 1977).
be failures, and they do not envy schoolmates          A hidden curriculum so unsubtle can hardly be
who make good grades. Instead, they despise            expected to succeed. 1
the servility of students who do well in school,
and they believe their own academic failure to         Conceptualization. The fourth and final diffi-
be a sign of worldly success, precocity, and           culty with the hidden curriculum argument is
masculinity. They channel their contempt into          its faulty conception of the relationship be-
active opposition to the school by exploiting          tween social class and schooling practices. Some
every loophole the school's cumbersome                 writers claim that, the 1960s notwithstanding,
bureaucratic structure affords. Either they            we should expect to find more conformity to
evade the school's rules and regulations entirely      the hidden curriculum among socially advan-
or they distort disciplinary procedures so as to       taged students than among disadvantaged stu-
disrupt the educational process. The hidden            dents. After all, conformity among the former
curriculum serves only to reinforce their anti-
scholastic values, not to convert them to
passivity or dependence.                                   IE a sense, therefore,hidden curriculum  theorists
    Nor is regularized opposition to the hidden        actually refer to a dual curriculum, one involving
                                                       subject matter, the other authorityrelations.Neither
curriculum a purely working-class phenomenon.          is really hidden. However,in keeping with literature
In his path-breaking Adolescent Society, James         and theory on the subject, I will continue to refer to
Coleman dwelled upon such phenomena as the             the hidden curriculum when I describe authority
"dating and rating" game, the stress upon              relationsin teaching.
1980           Democratic Politics and the Culture of American Education                        323
insures the inheritance of a favorable class          they are middle class, but because they are in
 position. By contrast, disadvantaged students       honors tracks, where the subject matter permits
have little prospect of occupational success, and     somewhat more creativity, independent judg-
therefore no incentive to accept schooling,           ment, personally structured investigation, and
including the hidden curriculum (Stinchcombe,        informed debate. Of course, teaching does have
 1964, Chs. 1 and 2). These expectations are in      consequences for class structure, but these
fact self-fulfilling. Rejection of the school by      consequences are realized only through teach-
disadvantaged students seals their dismal fate       ing itself. Therefore, variations in the hidden
by denying them needed educational creden-           curriculum must be understood in terms of the
tials. Acceptance of the school by middle-class      internal dynamics of educational systems as
students insures their future success. In this       well as the external dynamics of social class.
way contemporary capitalism reproduces class             A last problem of inference is the assump-
inequalities from generation to generation           tion that students apply what they learn in
(Ravitch, 1978, pp. 75-100). Thus the "re-           school to politics. This is another mistake
quirements" of social class position explain         critics of the school share with theorists con-
what might otherwise be puzzling about the           cerned with democratic socialization, for evi-
hidden curriculum's effectiveness.                   dence does not unequivocally support this
    There are several flaws in this argument. For    inference. Consider, for example, a recent study
one thing, the hidden curriculum that confronts      of 1811 student political leaders in American
middle-class students is not markedly authori-       high schools, a sample that might be expected
tarian. In fact, as Edward Morgan points out,        to be consistent in its attitudes toward school
"honors track students" (who are mainly mid-         and politics. Yet "student attitudes towards the
dle-class) "have the most democratic learning        wider political system are different from their
experiences and general track students the most      focus on the high school system" (Grove et al.,
profoundly undemocratic experience" (1977,            1974-75, p. 421). To be alienated from high
p. 96, emphasis added). Why a hidden curricu-        school does not insure political alienation, nor
lum purportedly intended to train middle-class       vice versa. The hidden curriculum of education
students to take positions of authority in           is not necessarily the hidden curriculum of
hierarchical institutions should present a demo-     politics (Takei and Kleiman, 1976, pp.
cratic face to these future leaders can only be      381-400).
considered a mystery. True, these lucky stu.             To summarize: the hidden curriculum argu-
dents will be running institutions and can thus      ment too often presents itself in a non-falsifi.
enjoy comparative freedom. But from a soci-         able guise; portrays the hidden curriculum as
ological point of view, habitual respect for and    more authoritarian than it is; assumes unwary
acceptance of authority is just as important a      rantedly that the hidden curriculum is entirely
quality for those who run institutions as for       unpalatable to students; assumes with equal
those who are run by institutions. Any lapse in     lack of warrant that the hidden curriculum is
respect for authority among leaders may rever-      effective; misconstrues the connections among
berate downward, emboldening subordinates to        social class, the "demands" of a capitalist
question their own subordination. After all,        system, and the hidden curriculum; and, finally,
followers often imitate leaders. In sum, the        incorporates an as-yet-undemonstrated transfer
argument that among leaders democracy is            of values from school to the political realm. It
 "affordable," even necessary, is simply not        thus fails to explain the school's apparent
convincing.                                         weakness in the transmission of democratic
    An additional problem with this argument is     values.
its interpretation of the connection between             Why these blind spots in a theory that holds
social class and the hidden curriculum. Not         such promise? Schooling is a combination of
even the most committed hidden curriculum           educational content and organizational con.
theorist claims that the school purposely           text-what is treated as knowledge and how
searches out middle-class students for the kid-     knowledge is treated. Critics of the school have
glove treatment practiced in honors tracks (but     rightly drawn our attention to the primarily
see Bowles and Gintis, 1976, pp. 125-41). In        authoritarian context of education, but they
any case, there are enough working-class stu-       have wrongly assumed the impotence of demo.
dents in honors tracks to belie any such            cratic content in such a setting. Democratic
argument. Therefore, it must be educational         values become more, not less, important in an
content, not the social class of students per se,   authoritarian context, for the conflict between
which explains the hidden curriculum's dif-         these two elements of schooling triggers the full
ferential treatment of students. Honors stu-        range of paradoxes that we find in American
dents receive democratic treatment not because      democratic education. Neither democratic sow
 324                        The AmericanPoliticalScienceReview                                 Vol. 74
cialization theorists (who overemphasize con-          nections between these external functions and
tent) nor hidden curriculum theorists (who             the hidden curriculum remain undemonstrated.
overemphasize context) have yet explored this          We need not explore the issue ourselves, how-
tangle of tensions fully. This now becomes our         ever, for the pressures we have identified within
task. Ultimately we will argue that democratic         the school are more than sufficient to account
values in American schools not only weaken the         for the hidden curriculum.
educational enterprise but also, curiously                 I should emphasize that the school's demand
enough, turn democratic socialization in Ameri-         for order is an organizational, not an education-
ca into unforeseen, unsatisfactory, and un-            al, imperative. Theoretically at least, organiza-
profitable directions.                                 tional flexibility may further educational goals,
                                                       although at the cost of effectively managing
          The Basic Shape of Schooling                 and controlling students. This potential hiatus
                                                       between learning goals and organizational order
    If the school's weakness in transmitting           creates a structural fault line running through
 democratic values cannot be explained solely          the school, a point of recurrent weakness
 by reference to the hidden curriculum, what           around which much of importance in the
 then? My approach to the problem addresses            school's life revolves.
two questions: First, what role does the hidden            The basic shape of schooling, therefore, is
 curriculum play in the organization of schools?       determined by the school's need to persuade
 Second, how does the American school attempt          students that there exists a connection in
to fit democratic values into the hidden curricu-      practice, if not in theory, between order and
lum? I believe that the school's adaptation fails      learning. Since order is the special province of
because the intersection of the hidden curricu-        the hidden curriculum it is the practices of the
lum and democratic values delegitimizes the            hidden curriculum in particular that must be
school's socialization efforts. The first step in      shown to contribute to the learning of relevant
 the argument is to identify the hidden curricu-       educational material. The basic shape of school-
lum's place in the school's organizational order.      ing, therefore, consists of a continual search for
I call this conjunction of hidden curriculum and       educational rationales to stabilize the hidden
organizational pattern the "basic shape" of           curriculum (cp. Bernstein, 1971, pp. 202-31).
schooling.                                                 Teachers and administrators enjoy custody
    Mary Metz goes far towards describing the         over these educational rationales. Both the
basic shape of schooling when she writes,             power of the teaching profession as a whole and
"Public schools have a paradox at their very          the independence of the individual classroom
heart. They exist to educate children, but they       teacher depend upon the public's acceptance of
must also keep order. Unless the children             the teacher as an authoritative repository of
themselves are independently dedicated to both        educational knowledge. Although teaching in
these goals, the school will find that arrange-       America lacks the status of older professions,
ments helpful for one may subvert the other.          the school's oft-noted resistance to public
Yet to sacrifice either for the other is to default   pressure (Peterson, 1974, p. 350; Zeigler and
upon a school's most fundamental responsibili-        Jennings, 1974; Hawthorne, 1978, pp. 362-67)
ties..." (1978, p. 243). The school's problem         rests on a claim that is substantially identical to
of order is acute, because schools bring together     that of fully established professions: namely,
a large, heterogeneous body of cognitively and        the possession and application of specialized
emotionally immature, but physically active           expertise acquired with difficulty (Meyer,
young people who are required to be in school,         1977, pp. 54-76;         Fisher, 1971-72,      pp.
and who once there are made to behave in ways         322-36).     Teachers claim expertise both in
that may run contrary to their lives and              some specialized, useful subject and in effective
propensities outside of school. Thus, for exam-       teaching methods. Teachers usually emphasize
ple, the same students who compete against            one of these two types of expertise. Elementary
each other for the scarce goods of excellent          school teachers must rely for their autonomy
grades play cooperatively when the school day         primarily on methodological claims, for most
ends. Keeping order under conditions like these       middle-class lay persons have a command of
obviously presents difficulties. It is this task      elementary school subject matter. By contrast,
which the hidden curriculum undertakes.               high school teachers can rely more heavily on
    Of course, the hidden curriculum may also         their access to specialized knowledge. Still,
perform other tasks, such as preparing students       taken as a whole, both the teacher's indepen-
for stratification by merit in large, impersonal,     dence and the teacher's claim to status rest on
hierarchical corporations and government agen-        the same foundation: the right to dispense
cies. Despite much debate, however, the con-          useful knowledge over which they alone exer-
1980           DemocraticPoliticsand the Cultureof AmericanEducation                              325
 cise jurisdiction.                                    Why must students be graded?Answer:student
     As professionals, therefore, teachers com-        achievement must be acknowledged and stu-
 mand a series of educational formulae with            dents placed in appropriate "tracks." Knowl-
 which to legitimize the hidden curriculum.            edge must be dispensed prudently to qualified
 However, because teachers must work in a             students and not squandered on unqualified
 school, they have an interest in ensuringschool       ones. According to the hidden curriculum,
 order. Thus the interests of schools and teach-      advanced knowledge is akin to salvation, theo-
 ers converge. The needs of both can be accom-        retically availableto all, but in practicelimited
 modated only by persuadingboth students and          to the deserving initiate (Apple, 1978; pp.
 the public that the social order of the school is    367-88).
 an educational necessity. In this way, the              This enforced symmetry between the struc-
 strictures of the hidden curriculumgain legiti-      ture of educational knowledge and the exigen-
 macy.                                                cies of the hidden curriculumis not without
     Of course, every professionis faced with the     serious costs. Some teachers convince them-
 problem of justifying its "standard operations       selves that ideas which cannot be made to
 procedures."Note, for example, the efforts of        conform to the hidden curriculumare unwor-
 doctors and lawyers to relate fee-for-service        thy of serious consideration. In this way the
 billing to the quality of medical or legal           hidden curriculumcomes to shape the structure
 practice. For their part, educators have             of educational knowledge, rather than being a
 elaborated an extensive ideology to justify the      neutraltool (Metz, 1978, pp. 36-57).
hidden curriculum. Knowledge, they claim, is             Equally important, however, is the impact
by its very nature complex, sequential, and           on students. At the outset of most courses,
cumulative. It cannot be acquiredhaphazardly,         students are ignorant of most-if not all-of the
hurriedly, or out of order. From this rationale       material, and therefore cannot evaluate the
 flow such ordering practices as curriculum           educational content on its merits. But they are
standardization,age-grading,and careful sche-         amply familiarwith the hidden curriculum,for
 duling of course material.Educatorsalso main-        they have encountered the school's demandfor
tain that advanced knowledge is difficult, and        order since their first cautious step into kinder-
therefore that only a few students can learn the      garten. So they naturally assume that if the
most demandingtruths. Therefore, the school          hidden curriculum in a classroom is in place,
must screen, test, and grade its students, a task     the subject matter must be legitimate and
the hidden curriculumundertakes.Finally, be-          worthwhile. Even brief relaxation of the hidden
cause the teacher commands knowledge to               curriculum may indicate to them that the
which the student is only an aspirant,it is only      materialbeing presentedis not "serious,"is just
right that the teacher enjoy authority over the      "fun," or calls for ridicule. It is not surprising,
student, as embodied in and enforced by the          therefore, that students think the natural sci-
hidden curriculum.                                   ences and mathematics "hard" and "impor-
    Standardization,testing, selection, age-grad-    tant," for in these disciplines teachers impose
ing, the sequencingof content, legitimate teach-      the hidden curriculum strictly. By contrast,
er authority-these are the heart of the hidden       students consider the humanities and social
curriculum. Every aspect of it is justified-         studies less demanding and less worthwhile
either directly or indirectly-from the teachers'     because in these fields formalcontrols are often
educational rationales. This is especiallytrue of    conspicuously and deliberately suspended
those aspects of the hidden curriculumstudents       (Metz, 1978, pp. 125-33, 57).
find most vexing: controls over demeanorand              This brings me to a key point: teaching
behaviorin school. Whymust students be quiet         political values poses a threat to the delicate
in the halls? Answer: because noise would            conjunction of order and content that makes
prevent the quest for knowledge. Knowledge           up the basic shape of schooling. Discussing
and quiet, the hidden curriculumteaches, go          political values in the classroominvites contro-
together. Why must class periods be 50 (or 30        versy and division, especially in the United
or 20) minutes long? Answer: this uniform            States where a heritageof liberalismencourages
period (whatever it is) is optimal for student       citizens to make unfettered political choices
attention to material. Learning, the hidden          from a free market of ideas (Gross, 1977, pp.
curriculum teaches, must be broken up into           194-200). As Americans,we expect people not
short identical chunks of time. Whymust there        only to advance their own political views, but
be examinations? Answer: how else can each           also to challenge the views of others. Theore-
student be appropriately placed in the hier-         tically, at least, no politicalvalues are sacred;all
archy of knowledge? Knowledge, after all, is         are open to question. In practice, of course,
hierarchical,the hidden curriculum contends.         some values are widely enough sharedas almost
 326                            The AmericanPoliticalScienceReview                                 Vol. 74
 to escape debate; nevertheless, espousing even            construed as either right or wrong. Thus, the
 these consensual values in the classroom pro-             math teacher "knows" that there are indis-
vides the occasional disaffected student with a            putably correct answers to math problems, just
 chance to dissent.                                        as the English teacher claims to be able to tell
    And what if controversydoes erupt?Among                "good" grammar from "poor" grammar (Post-
some values there exist no politically acceptable          man, 1973, pp. 86-95), "real originality" in
 choices. For example, the public school teacher           writing from "pure sensationalism." Why
can hardlypresentreligiousvalues as knowledge              should the teacher jeopardize not only the
compatible with the hidden curriculumwithout               school's demand for order but also his or her
imposing such values arbitrarily  upon a context           own authority by adopting an "every value is
 which our tradition of church-stateseparation             equally acceptable" attitude and possibly for-
decrees to be one of legitimate value division.            feiting the opportunity to make vital distinc-
But consider the alternative: arguing that one             tions in the sphere of knowledge? Knowledge
person's religious values are as good as                   and the professional autonomy it conveys must
another's, and that all religions (even irreli-            be kept free of value relativism, on the one
gions) merit respect. Though defensible within             hand, and political proselytizing on the other.
our political tradition, value relativism of this              Thus the context of public education in
sort hardly contributes to the school's demand             America conflicts with the context of democra-
for order in the service of an indivisible,                tic political socialization, and the school finds
unquestionable,single curricular  truth. In short,         itself pulled in contrary directions when it is
the teaching of political, social, and religious           required to socialize democratic values. Never-
values in Americanschools constantly threatens             theless, we persist in making just this demand
to undercutthe basic shape of schooling.                   of schools. Let us therefore explore our second
    Understandably, therefore, both value rela-            question: how does the school adapt to its
tivism and value advocacy compromise the                   political socialization requirements? What hap-
teacher's authority in the classroom. Students             pens when the school is asked to reconcile its
comply with the teacher'sdictates because they             demand for order with the necessity of teaching
believe that teachers possess objective truths             democratic values?
helpful to all, not salvation for students lucky
enough to espouse the "right" values and                            Bending Schools Out of Shape
excommunication for others.2 At the same
time, teachers cannot permit students to decide                Two democratic values of particular, though
for themselves what is true and what is not.               hardly exclusive,. importance to Americans are
Why then have teachers at all? On what                      popular sovereignty and political equality
therefore does a teacher's power depend? The               (Dahl, 1956). Americans conceive of popular
answer appears to be student willingness to                sovereignty as a means of preventing concentra-
believe that there exists some body of incon-              tions of power from estranging leaders from
testably true, generallyuseful knowledgewhich              followers, corrupting leaders, and ultimately
the teacher-and only the teacher-commands.                 paving the way for political repression. Elec-
Neither value advocacy nor its opposite-value              tions, public opinion polls, ombudsmen, and a
relativism-contributesto this belief.                      free press are all instruments with which we try
    Finally, the school's demandfor order favors           to insure popular sovereignty. Americans con-
an atmosphere of impartiality and respect for              ceive of political equality as the roughly equal
facts, educational qualities conducive to the              distribution of political power among ordinary
teacher's authority and the school's indepen-              citizens, a goal we attempt to implement by
dence. This atmosphere vanishes when value                 adhering to a "one person, one vote" rule, by
advocacy opens the school to chargesof propa-              enacting and enforcing legal barriers against
gandizing. Equally destructive is the value-rela-          discrimination, by unclogging channels of in-
tivism approach, for there is always the danger            terest group formation and expression, and, of
that the spirit of relativismmay spread uncon-             course, by abolishing all legal entitlements to
trollably into the teacher's privilegedrealm of            power and status (Tawney, 1931, Ch. 3). As
true knowledge. The teacher's self-interest de-            these examples indicate, our commitments to
mands that answersto educationalquestions be               political equality and popular sovereignty are
                                                           real, not rhetorical.
                                                               Teaching these democratic values causes the
    2I wish to stress that I am here speaking of the way   school difficulty. The problem which the
knowledge is perceived, not what it actually is in terms   school confronts is that if students were to
of its truth value. Elsewhere I have written on the        apply the two values to the school itself, they
latter subject (Merelman, 1976).                           would conclude that the hidden curriculum is
 1980          DemocraticPoliticsand the Cultureof AmericanEducation                               327
 illegitimate, for the hidden curriculumstratifies      as aspects of school practice (Boyd, 1978, pp.
 students according to competence, elevates             577-628.
 teachers above students, and asks students to             A good example of how educational pro-
 think of subject matter as a series of settled         cesses teach democratic values involves the
 truths, not as a set of conflicting values open to     recruitment of social studies teachers. Low
 popular choice. In school, students are not            recruitment standards,lax trainingprocedures,
 equals, the authority of the teacher is assumed        and permissive retention policies provide a
 to be unquestionable, and truth is never a             lesson in popular sovereignty at least as signifi-
 "value" which wins the most student votes, but         cant as anything that occurs in the classroom.
 rather a body of ideas which is objectively            Schools do not teach popular sovereignty by
 correct by external standards of evidence or           presenting it as a complex value requiring
 agreementin the keeping of teachers. In short,        disciplined classroom reasoning,but by tolerat-
 popular sovereignty and political equality chal-      ing low standards of teaching which diminish
 lenge the school's demand for order and the           the social studies teacher's claim to knowledge
 teacher'sclaim to knowledge.                          and expertise. The teacher'smediocrityreduces
     Schools could keep these democratic values        the gap between teacher and student, and thus
 within the basic shape of schooling, but only by      becomes a practical lesson in citizen compe-
 dint of singularintellectual gymnastics. Teach-       tence to judge leaders. The continual demon-
ers would have to argue that democraticvalues          stration of teacher mediocrity substitutes for
can be reasonedabout in more or less "sophisti-        the complexity of popular sovereignty as a
cated" and "intelligent" ways (thereby legiti-         political idea. I thus propose the following
mizing grading); that democratic values can            hypothesis: the greater an American school
 only be understood by the usual curricular            system's commitment to transmittingthe value
devices of sequencingand pacing;that democra-          of popular sovereignty, the greater will be its
tic values should be confined to politics, and         tendency to employ teachersjust brightenough
not implemented within the school; and, final-         to claim competence-thus protecting the pro-
ly, that political values should be subjected to       fession's claim to autonomy-but not so bright
the same rules of logical argumentthat teachers        as to deserve unquestioned power over the
enforce in other subject fields. In essence, the       student. Poor teachers demonstrateto students
school would have to argue that reasoning              that they need not fear intellectual authority.
about democratic values constitutes the                Thus, every American school needs its poor
school's special province, and that such reason-      teachers as well as its good teachers. The
ing must be kept separatefrom the implementa-         derision the barely competent teacherevokes is
tion of democraticvalues, which is the polity's       counterbalancedby the students' growing con-
concern. Teachingdemocraticvalues within the           fidence in themselves which undoubtedly aug-
basic shape of schooling would thus require           ments the practice-if not the understanding-
schools to exempt political reasoningfrom the         of popularsovereignty.
egalitarian messages which democratic values               Of course, there are sound economic expla-
convey. The schools would have to disentangle         nations for the paucity of excellent teachers.
political reasoningfrom democraticvalues, and         Yet a purely economic explanation does not
then argue that schools, as the custodians of         suffice, for we must ask ourselves why we
superiorreasoning,should be exempt from the           permit economic constrictions to channel the
democratic values they are propounding to              flow of competence away from public educa-
students (Entwhistle, 1971).                          tion. In other importantwalks of life economic
    The difficulty of explaining,justifying, and      considerationsare not permittedto stand in the
actually carryingout this task preventsits being      way of excellence. The answer, I think, is that
undertaken. Few Americanschools try to teach          limited teacher competence in social studies fits
democratic values as intellectual challenges.         our propensities to teach democratic values
Nevertheless, educators cannot escape the ne-         tacitly in practice rather than explicitly in
cessity of teaching democratic values in some         challengingcurricula.
form. What alternatives to real intellectual              Although this sounds heretical, even per-
discoursedo they adopt? The answer,I think, is        verse, I am in earnest. The evidence suggests
that patterns of educational practice serve as        that Americanpublic school teachers comprise
substitutes for the discussion of challenging         a distinctly mediocreintellectualreservoir(Wer-
democraticideas, but only in such a way as to         din, 1972, p. 124). Study after study shows
deligitimize the schools' socializing function.       that the grade point averagesof future teachers
To explain this argument we must turn our             fall below the averages of their peers (Study
attention to popular sovereignty and political        Commission on UndergraduateEducation and
equality not as parts of curricularcontent, but       the Education of Teachers, 1976, p. 48).
328                          The AmericanPoliticalScienceReview                                      Vol. 74
 Significantly,intellectual mediocrity is particu-         A dilemma of this magnitude defies simple
 larly common among teachers of social studies,        solution. Schools have developed a pattern of
 the subject area where, if my argument is             coping, however. In brief, most teachers make
 correct, mediocrityshould be centered.                certain that they convey roughly the identical
    Additional support is provided by the fact         form and quantity of knowledge to a majority
 that we consign many of our least gifted               of students in any classroom. This practice
 teaching minds to the elementaryschool, where         solves a number of problems. It assures that
 the tender age of the student already drives a         only the bare minimum in any class are
 wedge between teacher and pupil; where, there-        permitted to fail and, therefore, that only this
 fore, a warm manner, personableness,and the           bare minimum risk being subordinatedto their
balm of nurturecan preventthe teacher-student          peers on the basis of their knowledge. Likewise,
 gap from becoming a chasm; and where too              it assuresthat only a bare minimumwill be able
 much intelligence on the teacher's part would         to move rapidly towards demanding material,
simply underline the competence gap between            thus making certain that real success is suffi-
 teacher and student. In the interest of illustrat-    ciently uncommon as not to dishearten the
ing popular sovereignty in practice to ele-            majority of students.4 The majority in each
mentary students we employ and retain many             classroom thus remain equal. The impact of
quite ordinary subject-matter teachers who             egalitarianism upon the curriculumthus fosters
specialize in the teaching of "social develop-         the presentation of "standard packages" of
ment" and "human relations skills," skills             subject matter carefully calibrated to the pre-
which bring them closer to their students.             sumed abilities of a classroom majority, pack-
These teachers treat the class as a large family       ages which therefore fail to distinguishmarked-
whose concerns the teacher shares.By contrast,         ly among students in terms of either interest or
because we value academic competence more              incentive. Educatorsrationalizethis practiceby
highly among older students we can tolerate            arguingthat the standardpackageis knowledge
splitting off teachers from the lives of their         "appropriate"for students of a particularage.
mature students. Among older students, there-          In this way a set of standardpackagesbecomes
fore, we jettison the familial atmosphere and          a curriculum,buttressed by IQ scores, reading
tolerate status inequalities. The polar case is        levels, and a panoply of supportive theory.
college, where only the rareundergraduate    feels     More formally, we may define an American
as personally close to a professor as most             public school curriculum as that body of
elementary school students do towards their            knowledge which a majority of age-graded
teachers. In sum, we do not teach popular              students can understand equally well, and
sovereignty to young people as a complex               which this majority shares as a community of
problem of political reasoning,but we compen-          equals. In a society where political equality is a
sate by illustrating the value in educational          dominant value, knowledge must unite, not
practice.                                              divide people. These observationsshould make
    If the concept of popular sovereignty ap-          more comprehensiblethe oft-criticized unifor-
pears in the limited quality of our teachers,the       mity and standardization mass public school-
                                                                                  of
concept of political equality emerges in our           ing, and also help us understand why public
gradingpractices. The idea of political equality       schools so adamantly resist the reforms critics
conflicts with the need teachers feel to protect       have for so long advocated (Oliver, 1976;
the sanctity of knowledge via the teaching and         Sarason, 1969). The standardizedcurriculumof
grading of students. Most teachers believe that        the American public school is too valuable a
impartingas much knowledge as one knows, as            network of cultural compromises to be aban-
well as one can, to as many students as one can        doned in the interest of a reformer'sconception
reach, sooner or later requiresthat potentially
invidious distinctions among students be cre-
ated. Such distinctions conflict with the egali-       solution protects competence while denying the rele.
tarianism contained in the political equality          vance of knowledge for stratifying an entire class. I
norm. But to teach "less well" than one can is         suspect most professions resort to the same tactic, e.g.,
not only to violate one's own conscience, but          the psychiatrist who helps one spectacularly depressed
also to compromise the knowledge base of               patient out of his misery, the social worker who
teachingitself.3 Whatis to be done?                    succeeds in helping one delinquent girl to a better
                                                       home life, etc.
                                                          4Might this pattern not be responsible for the short
   3Lortie (1975) points out an interesting adaptive   shrift programs for educating the "gifted" have re-
solution to the problem. The teacher focuses on one    ceived throughout the nation? See G. I. Maeroff
or two pupils whom he or she has reached. This         (1977).
 1980          DemocraticPoliticsand the Cultureof AmericanEducation                                329
 of "better education.'5                               they were already matters of accepted fact
    An interesting illustrationof my argumentis        embodied in practice by the existing school-
 the drearyfate of recent laws requiringstudents       and political-order. And teachers read so little
 to prove their academic competence before             beyond the most pragmatic aspects of their
 moving to a higher grade. Many of these laws          craft that most can be assumed never to
 originally defined competence so restrictively        confront the fact-value distinction (Mour,
 that the majority of students in a class might        1977, pp. 397-401). Indeed, many have had
 well have failed, a failure perhapsjustifiable on     only minimal college course-workin the fields
intellectual grounds, but hardly consistent with       where they wind up teaching (United States
 the need the school feels to practice equality.       Office of Education, 1969, p. 41). Such work
"Too much competence" among students is as            in the social sciences would obviously help
 politically unfeasible as "too much compe-           them distinguishbetween facts and values. The
 tence" among teachers. Predictably, therefore,       teacher thus becomes a smuggler of values,
initially stiff competence standards have been        producing students who react with surpriseand
relaxed in order to accommodate the modest            bewildermentwhen, in college, their instructors
abilities and potentialities of most students.        ask them for the first time to make the
Slowly, like a phoenix from the ashes, the            fact-valuedistinction (Perry, 1968). At this late
standard curriculum has resurfaced, thus per-         point many students "know"-the standard
mitting us to practice-if not to teach well-the       curriculum package has told them so-that
value of equality (New York Times, March26,           democracy is the "best" form of government,
 1979).                                               that the United States is a democracy,and that
    I have identified two ways by which educa-        political equality and popular sovereignty are
tional practice adjusts itself to majorAmerican      both good in theory and present in practice.It
democraticvalues. But despite the school's best      becomes hard for these students to imaginethat
efforts, these values cannot be restrictedentire-    words like "best," "good," and "democracy"
ly to practice. They must appear somehow as          may have various, contestable meanings. Yet
subject matter. Here the teacher confronts           their miseducation in this respect ought to be
another dilemma. From the standpoint of              understood as a logical consequence of the way
analytic knowledge, popular sovereignty and          Americanschools attempt to promulgatedemo-
political equality are political values, not ele-    craticvalues.6
ments of factual truth consistent with the               To summarize: American schools adapt to
teacher's claim to authoritativeknowledge. The       demands that they transmit the democratic
problem becomes particularly acute when we           values of popular sovereignty and political
realize that the better and more critically such     equality by deemphasizingthe academic com-
values are discussed, the more controversial         petence of their teachingstaffs, by setting their
they become, and, therefore, the greater the         grading standardsat levels which insure that a
risk they pose to school order. Is there a           majority of students perform acceptably, if
resolution to this problem?                          perhaps poorly, and by glossing over the dif-
    The resolution the school adopts is that         ference between facts and values in politics. In
educators distort and simplify these values in       short, American schools adapt by reducing the
ways which appear to fit them within the             quality of education.
corpus of authoritative knowledge. Teachers
accomplish this metamorphosis by obscuring
                                                         60f course, not all students can be expected to
the logical distinction between political facts      confuse facts andvalues.For example,in the Jennings-
and values (a possible reason is contained in        Niemi study approximatelyhalf of the high school
Jaros, 1968, pp. 264-95). In Lortie'sstudy, for      seniors investigatedrejected the proposition that the
example, most teachers admitted that they did        Americanpoliticalsystem shouldbe extended to other
not know there is a logical hiatus between           countries (Jenningsand Niemi, 1974, p. 65). Yet the
factual statements and normative propositions        interpretationof this datum is by no means straight-
(1975, pp. 111-13). Their ignorance is fortui-       forward. It is perfectly consistent for students to
tously self-serving, for it permits them to          believe the United States the "best" political system
portray such potentially dangerous values as         on earth, and yet not to recommendthe system to
                                                     other countrieson groundsthat these countriesdo not
political equality and popular sovereignty as if     satisfy conditions which would be necessaryin order
                                                     to make them too "best." Thus, the fact that many
                                                     students think highly of Americangovernment, doyet
   51t is here that my view diverges
                                   somewhat from     not advocate its extension is not necessarilyanomal-
that of criticslike MichaelKatz,who portray
                                          school     ous, nor is it a seriousargumentagainst the idea that
                                         or
rigiditiesalmost entirely as organizational eco-     students think Americandemocracy an embodiment
nomic,        than
       rather cultural    problems.                  of the "best."
330                            The AmericanPoliticalScienceReview                                Vol. 74
     Yet this costly adaptation has its ironies.           Of course, the school itself may not be
 Poor teachers who apply uniformly mediocre             solely responsible for the ideological dispersion
 standards to distorted social studies ideas are        Schonfeld describes. Schonfeld also ignores the
 hardly capable of legitimizing the hidden cur-         highly restricted modes of expression allowed
 riculum. And, to repeat, order in school de-           to French students. But note that in the French
 pends upon the hidden curriculum'sappearing            case the school's demand for order and the
 necessary to good education. Therefore, be-            teacher's claim to knowledge are overtly assert-
 cause the practices I have described threaten          ed in the process of teaching democratic values.
 the legitimacy of the hidden curriculum,they           The result is an educational pattern precisely
 also impede school order. Even the average             the reverse of that which American schools
 student soon realizes that what little is de-          adopt. The French teach democratic theory; we
manded in social studies classes can be ac-             teach democratic practice.
complished without a hidden curriculum of
order. As a result, students resist an ordered              The confabulation of facts and values in the
hidden curriculum in the social studies, and            American social studies curriculum creates two
when they are successful in their resistance-as         quite specific limitations on political education.
Metz shows they often are (Metz, 1978, pp.              First, teachers who pretend that values are
 125-26, 244-45)-they take their success as             matters of settled fact seem unlikely to imbue
confirming their initial insight that the social        such values with passion or conviction. To have
studies are not really "serious"after all. If the       the proposition that democracy is a good thing
social studies were serious, wouldn't they re-          presented as if it were equivalent to the proof
quire a serious hidden curriculum? Thus a               that 2 + 2 = 4 is to remove from the concept of
vicious circle is drawn, a circle in which the          democracy its singular emotional force. Much
school's attempt to accommodate democratic              damage is therefore done to the value transmis-
values turns back self-destructively on the             sion process. After all, people will only internal-
school itself.                                         ize their political values deeply and cleave to
    If this argument is correct, it would follow        them intensely if they feel a necessity to
that in a school system where democratic               confront others who espouse opposed values, to
political socialization does not pose so seriousa      argue for their own, to think through their
threat to the hidden curriculum or to the              beliefs, and, through these exchanges, to ex-
teacher's power, teachers should be able to            plore the many applications, implications, and
maintain the distinction between political facts       ambiguities of their political lives (Shaver,
and values, and genuine, critical debate about          1977). The American social studies curriculum
democratic values should become an accepted            provides few such opportunities. As a result,
and effective part of the schooling process. An        democratic values rarely become deeply rooted
example of such a school system is that of             in the student's mind. Perhaps this tepid educa-
France, where teachers feel a level of security        tion helps account for the well-known Ameri-
and competence uncommon in the United                  can reluctance to apply abstract democratic
States. It is significant,therefore,that in France     values to concrete situations of choice (Jack-
                                                       man, 1978, pp. 303-25). In this case, practice
                                                       makes imperfect.
   there is very little attempted control over the
   ideas which pupils should express. In fact, an          At first students face this problem together.
   integral part of the system is an overt attempt      But bright students soon think their way
   not to restrict or influence the ideological
   options open to the individual. Thus teachers in
                                                       through the ruse, and conclude that what the
   the humanities and social sciences present their    school has presented as fact is actually a
   subject matter in as objective a manner as          complex, confusing matter of debate and per-
  possible....   In addition, teachers try to incul-   sonal commitment. Therefore, it is to bright
  cate within their students a critical bent of        students that the school is most disillusioning.
  mind. These tendencies are clearly illustrated in    And so, in every school system we turn many
  the French school exercise called explication de     of the best students-indeed,       many of our
  texte, in which the pupils must analyze and          future intellectuals-against the educational en-
  then criticize a given passage in a work selected
                                                       terprise (Friedenberg, 1963, Ch. 8). Perhaps
  by the teachers-what to do and how to do it
  are precisely defined, but the student is given
                                                       this is the most damning critique of all: that the
  total freedom of expression. The attempt not         American school's adaptation to the teaching of
  to restrict the philosophical options open to the    democratic values causes it to alienate many of
  child is apparently successful, since the belief     the most promising students in each new
  systems of the pupils gradually become dis-          generation. The school thus forfeits the respect
  persed all along the ideological spectrum            of that one group of future citizens who should
  (Schonfeld, 1976, p. 25).                            be its natural allies.
 1980           DemocraticPoliticsand the Cultureof AmericanEducation                                  331
                    Conclusion                             Curriculum Policy-Making for American Schools."
                                                           Review of Educational Research 48: 577-628.
    The limitations of the transmissionof demo-         Cohen, David K., and Marvin Lazerson (1977). "Edu-
 cratic values in Americanschools are the price            cation and the Corporate Order." In J. Karabel and
 we pay for the strain between the school's                A. HI Halsey (eds.), Power and Ideology in
                                                           Education. New York: Oxford University Press,
 demand for order and the egalitarian norms                pp. 373-86.
 embedded in American political culture. The            Coleman, James (1961). The Adolescent Society.
result of this conflict between orderand equal-            Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.
ity creates the characteristicAmericancultural          "Contemporary Tests in Basic Skills Cost Few Pupils
pattern I have described, a pattern in which               Their Diplomas." New York Times, March 26,
forms of political and social conduct come to              1979.
be elevated above political ideas and values            Cusick, Philip A. (1973). Inside High School: The
(Tapper, 1976).                                            Student's World. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and
    But the school is not the only place where             Winston.
this cultural strain manifests itself. Comparable       Dahl, Robert A. (1956). A Preface to Democratic
problems emerge in the family, where a struc-              Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
                                                        Dawson, Richard, Kenneth Prewitt, and Karen S.
ture of traditional authority confronts the                Dawson (1977). Political Socialization, 2nd ed.
child's demand for equality (Henry, 1963, pp.              Boston: Little, Brown.
 127-47), and on the job, where the traditional         Dewey, John (1916). Democracy and Education. New
power of the boss confronts the skilled work-              York: Macmillan.
er's demand for greaterpower. Thus it may be           Dreeben, Robert (1977). "The Contribution of
that in this article we have stumbled upon a               Schooling to the Learning of Norms." In Karabel
cultural strain intrinsic to the entire American           and Halsey, Power and Ideology in Education. New
political enterprise.                                      York: Oxford University Press, pp. 544-49.
                                                       The Education Professions: A Report on the People
    The Americanculturaladaptation-to substi-              who Serve Colleges and Universities (1968). United
tute action for comprehension-is damaging,for              States Office of Education, Washington, D.C.
the derogationof knowledgeand ideas it entails         Entwhistle, Harold (1971). Political Education in a
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