What's public about public schools? Why do we invest in educating the next generation of Americans? What is it that drives our common purpose in educating children and at the same time divides us so passionately about how to educate them? Public schools have little to do with children. Schools are political and ideological institutions in which each generation battles among itself for supremacy in determining the purposes, goals and direction of public education. From battles over school lunch to school dress to school prayer, each generation reinterprets and recapitulates the political and ideological arguments that date back to the founding of our nation. More than two centuries after the American Revolution, public schools serve as political battlefields for debates about religious freedom and whether students should be allowed to wear U.S. flag teeshirts. We invite you to join us in an exploration of the purposes of public schools, the competing visions of public education, and the values of the public good that comprise the public in public schools.
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Phil Boyle is president of Leading and Governing Associates, a public purpose consulting practice dedicated to preserving democracy and representative government. Del Burns is a consultant and former superintendent.Review:
This book provoked me to think about the cross-currents shaping public education. Few things are as important as preparing the next generation for the future. (Stan Norwalk, member, Wake County board of commissioners, North Carolina)
Boyle and Burns have written a cogent and compelling book that takes us back to first principles. In a time when the education debate is reduced to student performance on standardized tests, they provide a powerful reminder of the broader public purpose of education―to preserve our democratic republic. (Richard D. Kahlenberg, senior fellow, The Century Foundation, and author of All Together Now: Creating Middle Class-Schools through Public School Ch)
Preserving the Public in Public Schools addresses the complex choices that must be made concerning education in America today. It presents to educational decision-makers―who include legislators, school board members, and voters―a framework of values to guide them in their analyses and choices. Exploring how liberty, community, equality, and prosperity are intertwined in educational policy decisions, the authors challenge decision-makers to see beyond the need for students who can read, write, and compute, to the need for citizens and community members who can actively and intelligently participate in our messy but wonderful democracy. (Jane Wettach, education law professor, Duke University Law School)
Pushes us to a new level of thinking about our public schools and, more specifically, about public school governance. This is a must-read for all who truly care about the future of public education. (Paul Krohne, executive director, South Carolina School Boards Association)
An urgently needed reminder of why we have public schools in this country and why our conversations at the board table are more important than we realize. (William P. Nemir, director, leadership team services, Texas Association of School Boards)
Required reading for anyone considering serving on a school board and for all school board members who currently serve. The policy choices described in the mythical district of Crestwich exist in all of our school districts. (Jackie Cole, chair, Alamance County Board of Education, North Carolina)
It turns out there is a public for public schools and it's all of us. Boyle and Burns justify the continued existence of public education and provide the solution for restoring its essential purpose. (Mark C. Metzger, past president, Illinois Association of School Boards, and former member, National School Boards Association board of directors)
Our members believe strongly that public education is essential for a free, self-governing society and that local governance is vital for effective, efficient, and innovative public education. We have benefited from using the principles for solving policy problems and making policy choices described in this book. (Wayne Lueders Ph.D, executive director, Associated School Boards of South Dakota)
The America of tomorrow is taking shape in the schools and classrooms of America today. Anyone who cares about that tomorrow, the quality of life and living for all Americans, will want to read this provocative book. As America is still a living experiment in the history of the world, so too are American public schools. Both have to be continually fought for to survive and prosper. This book is testimony to the enduring legacy of that struggle to keep the public schools public (Fenwick W. English, R. Wendell Eaves Sr. Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
We cannot have public schools without public governance. The values and beliefs held by the public rarely align with the opinions of experts, but the reflections of those conflicting values and beliefs on our elected boards puts the public in public schools and make democracy work. If you wonder, 'why school boards?' or even 'why public education?,' there is no better place to start than this book. (Kenneth A. DeLay, executive director, Colorado Association of School Boards)
Literally thousands of books have been written about education. However, few have captured the importance of the word 'public' as Boyle and Burns have accomplished in their book, Preserving the Public in Public Schools. Of all the challenges facing education today, retaining the many meanings of 'public' is crucial to the survival of public schools. This is a must-read for those of us who care about strengthening the 'public' role and understanding of public schools in our nation. (Phil Kirk, chairman emeritus, North Carolina State Board of Education)
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