An America Curriculum?
by Catherine Cornbleth — 1998
Public schooling in the United States serves the purposes of Americanization and assimilation. Group and national identities are continually refashioned, however, and in the late 1990s, it is much less clear what students are being socialized or assimilated to than it was twenty or forty or eighty years ago. The resurgence of policy activity and controversy regarding American pluralism-diversity-multiculturalism has raised questions about what vision or version of the nation is to be transmitted to future generations via school curricula.
The focus of the study presented here is the images of America actually being conveyed in elementary, middle, and high school social studies classes. The absence of a single, predominant image of America in these classes can be understood as reflecting the complex realities of United States history and contemporary society. Closest to a dominant theme was “imperfect but best”—America as the best country in the world, despite past problems, current difficulties, and various complaints. Alternative interpretations were offered, all pointing to disruption of the traditional story of America, a disruption that challenges not only the conventional wisdom but also the privileged positions of those individuals and groups who have benefited from dominant ideologies and prevailing distributions of power.
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