In place of a conclusion: The common school and the melting pot

Journal of Philosophy of Education 41 (4):829–842 (2007)
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Drawing substantially on the arguments put forward by the contributors to this Special Issue, this final article examines the two main purposes of the common school in contemporary western societies: to develop a set of shared values and a unified sense of citizenship, on the one hand, and to iron out disadvantage and equalise opportunities, on the other. Four main justifications for the common school are discussed—its symbolic value, its compatibility with liberal values, its inclusiveness and its provision of practical opportunities to learn to live together. Nevertheless, the common school faces a number of challenges, including how much freedom of choice to allow parents, how to interpret the principle of equality in practice, how to devise a common curriculum that meets the needs of all students and how to respond to the apparent inequalities of the neighbourhood school. It is argued that the biggest dilemma facing the common school is a cultural one: that is, finding a balance between the need to respect the diverse cultural identities of its students and the need to develop a common set of loyalties and shared national identity at the same time. An examination of the case of Muslims in England suggests that intentionally or otherwise the common school is still in the business of assimilating minorities into a new identity through processes very similar to those of the melting pot. The article concludes by warning that continuing this policy may result in stronger resistance in the future



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John Halstead
Oxford University

Citations of this work

The Other Side of Belonging.Mary Healy - 2020 - Studies in Philosophy and Education 39 (2):119-133.

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References found in this work

The Demands of Liberal Education.Meira Levinson - 1999 - Oxford University Press UK.
Parental rights and the religious upbringing of children.T. H. McLaughlin - 1984 - Journal of Philosophy of Education 18 (1):75–83.
The common school.Richard Pring - 2007 - Journal of Philosophy of Education 41 (4):503–522.
Values in Education and Education in Values.J. M. Halstead & M. J. Taylor - 1997 - British Journal of Educational Studies 45 (2):212-212.
Educational justice and socio-economic segregation in schools.Harry Brighouse - 2007 - Journal of Philosophy of Education 41 (4):575–590.

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