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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Ten: Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life (1976)


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Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life (1976)1

James M. Giarelli


Schooling in Capitalist America grows out of a long tradition of classical and contemporary educational thought that focuses on the relationship between educational institutions and social justice. The first portion of this chapter presents a brief summary of some of this tradition, since it is an essential context for understanding the origins and importance of Schooling in Capitalist America. The second part of the chapter provides a very brief synopsis of the book’s argument and theoretical stance. The chapter concludes with a reference to some of the critical literature and Bowles and Gintis’s reflections on their own work.

History and Context

In Plato’s treatment of education and justice in The Republic,2 Socrates and his colleagues devote the first several dialogues to a detailed plan for preparing different social groups for their separate—but complementary—roles in Athenian society through distinctively different educational experiences and curricula. This same concern with the relationship between education and social justice, albeit from very different perspectives, occurs within the American experience. Thomas Jefferson argued that the creation of a system of public education for the common people was the best defense against the tyranny of dynastic elites. Horace Mann argued that common schools could be a force for both social mobility and...

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