The Dissenting Tradition in American Education

Jeffrey Howard

James C. Carper and Thomas C. Hunt
Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
2007

This new book by social historians James Carper and Thomas Hunt catalogues two centuries of conflict between public education and religion. Their core thesis is simple: our system of homogenized public education is as philosophically ludicrous as the idea of an established national church, and we're silly to expect that such a culturally diverse nation could ever agree on one approach to the education of youth. Or in their words: "The current structure of public education is incompatible with America's confessional pluralism and our sacred commitment to universal liberty of conscience in matters of education and religion." Religious parents and government schools have tussled throughout U.S. history, and the authors offer a series of illustrative discussions, from anti-Catholic efforts to outlaw private schools in the 19th century, to constitutional debates over Bible-reading in the classroom, to the contemporary phenomenon of religious homeschooling. Indeed, Carper and Hunt make clear that parental dissent is still going strong. Contemporary Christian evangelicals have retreated from public schools precisely because they find such institutions hostile to their faith. The solution, according to the authors, is to give parents choices. (Get more information here.)

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