Core Lessons on Neoconservative School Reform
For nearly two decades, E. D. Hirsch’s book Cultural Literacy has provoked debate over whose knowledge should be taught in schools, embodying the culture wars in education. Initially developed to mediate against the multicultural "threat," his educational vision inspired the Core Knowledge curriculum, which has garnered wide support from an array of communities, including traditionally marginalized groups. In this groundbreaking book, Kristen Buras provides the first detailed, critical examination of the Core Knowledge movement and explores the history and cultural politics underlying neoconservative initiatives in education.
Ultimately, Rightist Multiculturalism does more than assess the limitations and possibilities of Core Knowledge. It illuminates why troubling educational reforms initiated by neoconservatives have acquired grassroots allegiance despite criticism that their vision is culturally elitist. More importantly, Buras argues understanding that neoconservative school reform itself has become a multicultural affair is the first step toward fighting an alternative war of position—that is, reclaiming multiculturalism as a radically transformative project.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Rightist Multiculturalism as the New Hegemony
1. Historicizing Core Knowledge: Neoconservatism, Cultural Deficiency and the Civil Rights Frontier
2. Questioning Core Assumptions: A Critical Reading of E.D. Hirsch’s Educational Vision
3. Tracing the Core Knowledge Movement
4. The Disuniting of America’s History: Core Knowledge and the National Past
5. Core Lessons on Neoconservative School Reform.
Appendix A: Methodologies: Getting to the Core of the Matter.
Appendix B: Correspondence on the Politics of Antonio Gramsci from Harvard Educational Review
Kristen L. Buras is Assistant Professor of Multicultural Urban Education in the Division of Educational Studies at Emory University. She has written on school reform in Harvard Educational Review and is co-editor of The Subaltern Speak: Curriculum, Power, and Educational Struggles.
"This meticulously researched analysis of ‘rightist multiculturalism’ in the ongoing curriculum battle for cultural supremacy reveals the neo-conservative evolution and contradictory ideology of the Core Knowledge school reform movement. In contrast to this matrix of hegemonic power and control, Buras’s vision of culturally democratic schooling is hopeful and compelling."
--Joyce E. King, Benjamin E. Mays Chair for Urban Teaching, Learning & Leadership, Georgia State University.
"Buras’s careful analysis reveals the instigators, financiers, strategies, and campaigns to politicize school curriculum in order to develop a permanent conservative majority. The book is a must-read—our past, present and future are at stake."
--Patrick Shannon, Professor of Education, Pennsylvania State University.
"Just as the Civil Rights Movement was a product of preparation in previous decades, Buras captures convincingly the slow but strident development of the New Right. She does not only take the Core Knowledge Movement in education to task but equally takes it seriously. Buras’ stunning analysis forces critical educators to take notice of a new compromise in the cultural wars: the hegemonic rise of Rightist Multiculturalism. This book will teach and delight its readers."
-- Zeus Leonardo, Visiting Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley.