Otherwise than Schooling: Three Critiques of Secularism, State Power, and US Public Education, 1960-2000

Jennings, Chandler, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hedstrom, Matthew, AS-Religious Studies (RELI), University of Virginia

This thesis explores the convergences and divergences among three critiques of US public schooling that emerged between 1960 and 2000: Christian Reconstruction, Afrocentric education, and the unschooling/deschooling movement. Each of these three bodies of work critiques public schooling in order to make larger claims about secularism and state power in the United States. This thesis traces the logic of each of these critiques in turn, focusing especially on how they mobilize and interrogate categories of religion, secularism, culture, race, and freedom. Even as they challenge how state power is exercised through public schooling, these critiques also offer radically different visions of possible alternatives. They sit strangely within received categories, frequently challenge the political imagination, and are difficult to reconcile with a standard right-left political binary. They read as alternatively brilliant, frustrating, tantalizing, and horrifying. In short, they are repugnant to both dominant political positions as well as dominant academic modes of inquiry. This thesis engages with these repugnant cultural others as a way of expanding the American political imagination and theorizing more just forms of life.

MA (Master of Arts)
Postsecular Studies, Public Education, Afrocentrism, Christian Reconstruction, Deschooling
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