The Ideology of Education

The Commonwealth, the Market, and America's Schools

By Kevin B. Smith

Subjects: Political Science
Paperback : 9780791456460, 212 pages, January 2003
Hardcover : 9780791456453, 212 pages, January 2003

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Table of contents

List of Tables and Figures



1. Ideology and Education

2. Education and the Economy

3. Education and Equality of Opportunity

4. Institutional Structure and Educational Goals

5. Education and Civic Culture

6. Education as Ideology


Methodological Appendix



Explores the ideological underpinnings of school choice and other market-based education reforms.


Advocates of market-based education reforms (including such policies as choice, charters, vouchers, and outright privatization) argue that they represent ready solutions to clearly defined problems. Critics of market models, on the other hand, argue that these reforms misperceive the purposes of public education and threaten its democratic ethos. This book explores both the promises and pitfalls of market forces—their potential to improve the quality of public education and their compatibility with its republican justifications. Smith argues that although market models of education are not without utilitarian merit, their potential to alter the social-democratic purposes of education is seriously underestimated. He supports this claim with a series of sophisticated analyses of the key assumptions underlying these models, and by examining the normative elements of theory and methodology that can—and often do—skew empirical policy analysis toward market preferences. He concludes that market reforms are not just a ready means to effectively address the problems of public schooling but rather represent a clear attempt to ideologically redefine its ends.

Kevin B. Smith is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the coauthor (with Kenneth J. Meier) of The Case Against School Choice: Politics, Markets, and Fools.


"I am impressed with the author's careful delineation of the assumptions underlying various schools of thought and his careful design of empirical tests of these assumptions. He sheds light on a topic of great contemporary political debate—a topic where hot air is more common than fresh. If people want to debate market-based approaches to education seriously rather than just espouse a pet project because it happens to fit their ideological proclivities, they will have to deal with the issues and the evidence Smith brings forth. " — Joseph Stewart Jr. , coauthor of Public Policy: An Evolutionary Approach, Second Edition