Consuming the public school

Educational Theory 61 (4):381-394 (2011)
Abstract
In this essay David Labaree examines the tension between two competing visions of the purposes of education that have shaped American public schools. From one perspective, we have seen schooling as a way to preserve and promote public aims, such as keeping the faith, shoring up the republic, or promoting economic growth. From the other perspective, we have seen schooling as a way to advance the interests of individual educational consumers in the pursuit of social access and social advantage. In the first half of the essay Labaree shows the evolution of the public vision over time, from an emphasis on religious aims to political ones to economic ones and, finally, to an embrace of individual opportunity. In the second half, he shows how the consumerist vision of schooling has not only come to dominate in the rhetoric of school reform but also in shaping the structure of the school system
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