The multi-layered relationships between and among state, church, and formal schooling are complex. Simply setting out to define the terms hints at the complexity of the issues. For instance, “the state” can mean local, state, and national government agencies, from local school boards to the U.S. Supreme Court. “The church” has different meanings depending on whether one belongs to a mainstream Protestant religion or a smaller and lesser-known Christian sect, or is a Catholic. Further, even the use of the term “the Church” reflects a cultural bias toward Christianity and away from Judaism, Islamic faiths, Buddhism, Hinduism, or other major or minor world religions. All of these terms avoid recognition of atheists and agnostics, who also have had much to say about the role of religion in schools. To complicate the picture even more, all of these relationships have continually shifted over time and space, rendering it impossible to talk about “a U.S. tradition.” Religion has not been the only issue related to schools in which various government agencies have gotten involved. Issues of students’ rights and teachers’ rights, generally outgrowths of the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements of the second half of the 20th century, have shaped legislative regulations regarding schools. Issues of rights to privacy, free expression (in language and clothing), and censorship all have played a part in the development of schooling in the U.S. Some of these issues are linked to issues of religion, as well. This course sets out to explore some of these complex histories and relationships.
Taught by Professor Margaret Nash