Cover of Reconstructing the Common Good in Education by Edited by Larry Cuban and Dorothy Shipps
Reconstructing the Common Good in Education
Coping with Intractable American Dilemmas
Edited by Larry Cuban and Dorothy Shipps


304 pages.
from $35.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804738620
Paperback ISBN: 9780804738637



For almost two centuries, Americans expected that their public schools would cultivate the personal, moral, and social development of individual students, create citizens, and bind diverse groups into one nation. Since the 1980s, however, a new generation of school reformers has been intent on using schools to solve the nation’s economic problems. An economic justification for public schools—equipping students with marketable skills to help the nation compete in a global, information-based workplace—overwhelmed other historically accepted purposes for tax-supported public schools.

Private sector management has become the model for public school systems as schools and districts are “downsized,” “restructured,” and “outsourced.” Recent reform proposals have called for government-funded vouchers to send children to private schools, the creation of self-governing charter schools, the contracting of schools to private entrepreneurs, and the partnerships with the business community in promoting new information technologies. But if there is a shared national purpose for education, should it be oriented only toward enhancing the country’s economic success? Is everything public for sale? Are the interests of individuals or selected groups overwhelming the common good that the founders of tax-supported public schools so fervently sought?

This volume explores the ongoing debates about what constitutes the common good in American public education, assessing the long-standing tensions between shared purposes and individual interests in schooling. It shows how recent school reform efforts, driven by economic concerns, have worsened the conflict between the legitimate interests of individuals and society as a whole, and demonstrates that reconstructing the common good envisioned by the founders of public education in the United States remains essential and unfinished work.

About the authors

Larry Cuban is Professor of Education at Stanford University. He is the author, most recently, of How Scholars Trumped Teachers: Change Without Reform in University Curriculum, Teaching, and Research. Dorothy Shipps is Assistant Professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

"Every library with serious contemporary affairs or education collections will want this intelligent book."

—C. A. Cunningham, University of Chicago

". . . . This book does something that is unique in our headlong rush to change, reform, punish, or criticize education. Its thoughtful essays pause and reflect on what public education means in America. . . . [Reconstructing the Common Good in Education] is relevant for both historians and those in education policy. . . .[It] provides useful ideas and material for both."

American Studies International