Going Public

Schooling for a Diverse Democracy

An historically informed overview of the multicultural education debate from a leading advocate

“Brave and long overdue. . . . A thoughtful and historically grounded critique of U.S. traditions in curriculum and teaching that brings seriousness and sympathy to a debate that often lacks both qualities. This is thinking for a new world and a new century. Hooray and cheers!” —Joseph Featherstone, professor of education, Michigan State University

By undertaking to educate every single American child all the way through high school, the United States has set for itself a goal unrivaled by any other country in the world. But this goal has run full tilt into a heated debate about what we teach diverse children about our history, language, and literature.

Arguments for and against multicultural education, according to Judith Renyi, Director of Collaboratives for Humanities and Arts Teaching (CHART), have too often been debated in a historical vacuum. Going Public is an unprecedented attempt to provide the historical context of the struggle for diverse curricula in American public schools. It also interprets the teachings of our schools in surprising ways.

Dr. Renyi offers an eloquent and wide-ranging look at how our educational goals have changed over the past century, as well as a prescription for how they must continue to change through the millennium if we are to accomplish the ambitious task of fully educating the poorest quarter of our nation. She also provides perhaps the most informed overview to date of the multicultural education debate—of the formation and reformation of the canon, the call for a return to basics, and the politics of inclusion. She ends with a powerful argument for a generous, diverse curriculum that reflects our radical national experiment in educating all our citizens through high school—for changing the “what” and “how” of education to engage the new “whom.”

With erudition and sensitivity—combined with firsthand knowledge from visits to hundreds of elementary and secondary school classrooms across the country—Renyi offers historical perspective as well as humane solutions.