Democratic Politics and the Culture of American Education


  • Richard M. Merelman Cambridge University


This article argues that weaknesses in the school's socialization of democratic values can be traced to culturally patterned strains in American education. Such strains are cultural adaptations to a conflict between educational knowledge and order, on the one hand, and egalitarian politics in America, on the other. After treating a defective explanation for the school's weakness as a democratic socialization agent–the “hidden curriculum” approach–the article outlines the conflict between democratic politics and “the basic shape of schooling.” The article concludes by tracing the deleterious effect of this conflict on teachers, curricula, and students.