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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 Three: Paul Goodman, Compulsory Mis-education (1962) and The Community of Scholars (1964)


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Paul Goodman, Compulsory Mis-education (1962) and The Community of Scholars (1964)

David Hursh

Paul Goodman, New York Jewish intellectual, married bisexual father of three children, essayist, anarchist, and Aristotelian scholar, was one of the most influential writers of the 1960s. Regrettably, he is now largely forgotten. But for many of us who entered adulthood in the 1960s and sensed something amiss in society, Goodman gave us a vision and a voice. He relentlessly criticized schools and society for promoting docility and conformity and called for a society in which people engaged in learning to improve their own lives and the world around them. I read Compulsory Mis-education (1962), The Community of Scholars (1964), and their companion, Growing Up Absurd (1960), a few years after they were published, and shortly after beginning my undergraduate studies in 1966. It has been almost 50 years since I read them. A recent film on Goodman’s life is appropriately titled Paul Goodman Changed My Life (2008). In re-reading these two books, it is clear to me that Goodman’s ideas still resonate with me today.

The Context of This Character

Goodman, born in New York City in 1911, lived at various times as a classic New York intellectual sought after by the media for his critique of society, and at other times as an outcast marginalized for that same critique. Similarly, those who knew him, such as Susan Sontag;...

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