“Muslim Students, Education and Neoliberalism” (Haywood & Mac an Ghaill, eds.)

This month, Palgrave Macmillan releases “Muslim Students, Education and Neoliberalism: Schooling a ‘Suspect Community,'” edited by Máirtín Mac an Ghaill (Newman University) and Chris Haywood (Newcastle University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This edited collection brings together international leading scholars to explore why the education of Muslim students is globally associated with radicalisation, Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 8.35.21 PMextremism and securitisation. The chapters address a wide range of topics, including neoliberal education policy and globalization; faith-based communities and Islamophobia; social mobility and inequality; securitisation and counter terrorism; and shifting youth representations. Educational sectors from a wide range of national settings are discussed, including the US, China, Turkey, Canada, Germany and the UK; this international focus enables comparative insights into emerging identities and subjectivities among young Muslim men and women across different educational institutions, and introduces the reader to the global diversity of a new generation of Muslim students who are creatively engaging with a rapidly changing twenty-first century education system.  The book will appeal to those with an interest in race/ethnicity, Islamophobia, faith and multiculturalism, identity, and broader questions of education and social and global change.

Justice and Macleod, “Have a Little Faith”

In November, the University of Chicago Press will release “Have a Little Faith: Religion, Democracy, and the American Public School,” by Benjamin Justice (Rutgers Graduate School of Education) and Colin Macleod (University of Victoria). The publisher’s description follows:

It isn’t just in recent arguments over the teaching of intelligent design or reciting the pledge of allegiance that religion and education have butted heads: since their 9780226400457.jpgbeginnings nearly two centuries ago, public schools have been embroiled in heated controversies over religion’s place  in the education system of a pluralistic nation. In this book, Benjamin Justice and Colin Macleod take up this rich and significant history of conflict with renewed clarity and astonishing breadth. Moving from the American Revolution to the present—from the common schools of the nineteenth century to the charter schools of the twenty-first—they offer one of the most comprehensive assessments of religion and education in America that has ever been published.

From Bible readings and school prayer to teaching evolution and cultivating religious tolerance, Justice and Macleod consider the key issues and colorful characters that have shaped the way American schools have attempted to negotiate religious pluralism in a politically legitimate fashion. While schools and educational policies have not always advanced tolerance and understanding, Justice and Macleod point to the many efforts Americans have made to find a place for religion in public schools that both acknowledges the importance of faith to so many citizens and respects democratic ideals that insist upon a reasonable separation of church and state. Finally, they apply the lessons of history and political philosophy to an analysis of three critical areas of religious controversy in public education today: student-led religious observances in extracurricular activities, the tensions between freedom of expression and the need for inclusive environments, and the shift from democratic control of schools to loosely regulated charter and voucher programs.

Altogether Justice and Macleod show how the interpretation of educational history through the lens of contemporary democratic theory offers both a richer understanding of past disputes and new ways of addressing contemporary challenges.

Jaffe-Walter, “Coercive Concern”

In March, Stanford University Press released “Coercive Concern: Nationalism, Liberalism, and the Schooling of Muslim Youth,” by Reva Jaffe-Walter (Montclair State University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Many liberal-minded Western democracies pride themselves on their commitments to egalitarianism, the fair treatment of immigrants, and the right to education. These pid_24789environments would seem to provide a best-case scenario for the reception of immigrant youth. But that is not always the case. Coercive Concern explores how stereotypes of Muslim immigrants in Western liberal societies flow through public schools into everyday interactions, informing how Muslim youth are perceived by teachers and peers. Beyond simply identifying the presence of racialized speech in schools, this book uncovers how coercive assimilation is cloaked in benevolent narratives of care and concern.

Coercive Concern provides an ethnographic critique of the “concern” that animates integration policy in Danish schools. Reva Jaffe-Walter focuses on the experiences of Muslim youth at a public school where over 40% of the student body is of immigrant descent, showing how schools operate as sites of governance. These efforts are led by political leaders who promote national fears of immigrant take-over, by teachers in schools, and by everyday citizens who are concerned about “problems” of immigration. Jaffe-Walter exposes the psychic and material costs immigrant youth endure when living in the shadow of social scrutiny, but she also charts a path forward by uncovering the resources these youth need to attain social mobility and success.

Panel on Tax Reform and Education (Feb 25)

On February 25, the CUNY Institute for Education Policy in New York will host what looks to be a fascinating discussion on tax credits for primary and secondary education–including education in religious schools. Past CLR Forum Guest Ashley Berner (left), the Institute’s Deputy Director, will be one of the panelists. Here’s a description:

For most Americans, “public education” has meant the traditional neighborhood school. That once-unassailable image is changing, however, as states and districts have begun to sanction a wider array of schools such as magnets and charters, and new school funding mechanisms such as tax credits and vouchers – stirring up controversy in the process.

There are important arguments on each side. To its defenders, the dominant model reflects democratic governance structures, advances citizenship formation, is ideologically neutral, and should be preserved with minor adjustments. Innovators, for their side, believe that the expansion of educational options yields better academic outcomes and more diverse classrooms, extends choice to more families, advances pluralism, and aligns the United States’ school system with those of other democratic nations.

New York is now considering a bill that creates an Education Investment Tax Credit to stimulate up to $300 million in charitable donations for public classrooms and for K-12 scholarships for students to attend Catholic, Jewish and other private schools. Please join us for a lively discussion of the bill’s benefits and limitations in light of international education systems.

For details, please click here.

The Becket Fund’s Cert Petition in the Wisconsin High School Graduation Case

Last summer, the Seventh Circuit ruled, en banc, that a Wisconsin public high school could not hold its graduation ceremonies in a rented Evangelical church sanctuary. To do so, the court ruled, posed too great a risk of government coercion, proselytism, and endorsement of religion. Three judges–Easterbrook, Posner, and Ripple–filed blistering dissents, the sort that often result in Supreme Court review.

The Becket Fund has filed a cert petition on behalf of the high school; Stanford Law Professor Michael McConnell appears on the petition as counsel of record. You can read the petition here. The Supreme Court is expected to announce whether it will hear the case, Doe v. Elmbrook School District, later this month. The case would give the Court an opportunity to clarify (or discard) its much maligned endorsement test. For my reflections on the issues the case raises, please click here.

Berner on Educational Pluralism

First Things has just posted an important and thoughtful essay by Ashley Berner, “The Case for  Educational Pluralism.” Berner (left), co-director of the Moral Foundations of Education Project at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture — and an occasional guest blogger at CLR Forum — argues that pluralism can offer great benefits and help resolve tensions in public education.

Unlike the American model, which relies on government to deliver education, the pluralist model involves government funding of private schools. These schools may reflect a variety of beliefs and perspectives, both religious and non-religious; public oversight is limited to ensuring that general educational requirements are met. Berner points out that many Western democracies have such systems, which allow greater educational diversity than the American model. Moreover,  pluralism avoids a central problem of American public education: a false neutrality that masks a secularist philosophy many parents reject.

Berner concedes that educational pluralism comes with problems of its own and may face constitutional difficulties under current law. But, she writes, pluralism “offers an honest acknowledgement of the myriad value judgments inherent in any education and generously accommodates a variety of beliefs and opinions in a way more congruous with the United States’ democratic political philosophy than does the current system. While some people fear that such pluralism would produce division and harm the students educationally, evidence suggests that, in fact, pluralism often yields superior civic and academic results.” Read the whole thing.

Larson, “Larson’s Creationism in the Classroom: Cases, Statutes, and Commentary”

This October, West Law will publish Larson’s Creationism in the Classroom: Cases, Statutes, and Commentary by Edward J. Larson (Pepperdine University School of Law). The publisher’s description follows.

This casebook, by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, explores fundamental legal issues relating to how scientific and religious concepts of biological origins should be presented in public-school biology courses. Although numerous legal arguments are invoked, the Establishment Clause typically stands at or near the center of most disputes: Does teaching Darwinism or creationism, or disparaging them, in public schools promote or hinder religious belief in violation of the First Amendment? In grappling with this question in various forms as presented in differing fact situations over the past half century, American courts have examined the meaning of the Establishment Clause and sharpened their interpretation of it. This is the first and only casebook devoted to this topic, and it is ideal for use in education law programs, constitutional law seminars, and legal history courses.

Davis & Miroshnikova, “The Routledge International Handbook of Religious Education”

This August, Routledge published The Routledge International Handbook of Religious Education edited by Derek Davis (Baylor University) and Elena Miroshnikova (Tula Leo Tolstoy State Pedagogical University). The publisher’s description follows.

How and what to teach about religion is controversial in every country. The Routledge International Handbook of Religious Education is the first book to comprehensively address the range of ways that major countries around the world teach religion in public and private educational institutions. It discusses how three models in particular seem to dominate the landscape.

Countries with strong cultural traditions focused on a majority religion tend to adopt an “identification model,” where instruction is provided only in the tenets of the majority religion, often to the detriment of other religions and their adherents. Countries with traditions that differentiate church and state tend to adopt a “separation model,” thus either offering instruction in a wide range of religions, or in some cases teaching very little about religion, intentionally leaving it to religious institutions and the home setting to provide religious instruction. Still other countries attempt “managed pluralism,” in which neither one, nor many, but rather a limited handful of major religious traditions are taught. Inevitably, there are countries which do not fit any of these dominant models and the range of methods touched upon in this book will surprise even the most enlightened reader. Read more

Yildirim on Turkey’s Draft Constitution

The Forum 18 Blog has an interesting article by Mine Yildirim (Åbo Akademi University) on the freedom of religion provisions in a draft constitution currently under consideration in Turkey. The ruling Islamist AKP party and the opposition secularist CHP party have agreed on some provisions, but not all, and Yildirim describes the result as a mixed bag. For example, for the first time, the constitution will contain a clause conferring a right to change one’s religion. As Yildirim points out, many majority-Muslim countries reject such a right, and the AKP deserves some credit for accepting the language (though Islamists sometimes interpret such language to confer only a right to convert to Islam). On the other hand, the AKP has refused to discontinue compulsory religion classes in public schools. Minorities, especially Alevis, claim these classes amount to proselytism, and the ECtHR has agreed on at least one occasion (Zengin v. Turkey). Also, the AKP rejected the CHP’s proposal for a clause stating that “the state is impartial toward all religions and beliefs in all its proceedings and actions and will respect social pluralism based on the diversity of religions, beliefs and opinions.” The AKP argued that such a provision would invalidate the state’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, which has a major role in promoting Sunni Islam in Turkey. Here’s Yildirim’s closing paragraph:

The challenge for the AKP – as the current ruling party – remains to devise policies which genuinely respect the religious freedom of Turkey’s increasingly pluralistic society. This starts with the Constitution and also includes other legislative changes to protect religious freedom in line with the country’s existing human rights commitments. The AKP’s non-recognition of Alevi cem houses (places of worship), insistence on the compulsory [religious education] lessons, strengthening the Diyanet’s position as a publicly-funded religious institution, and the comments of AKP politicians, indicate that the party fails to devise policies that respect Turkey’s pluralistic reality and observe the principle of impartiality on the part of the state.

ACLU to South Carolina Public Schools: We’re Watching

The Wall Street Journal‘s Law Blog reports today that, as the new school year begins, the ACLU of South Carolina has sent a letter to public schools in the state reminding them of their constitutional duty to avoid promoting religion:

“It’s important that all students know that they’re going back to school to a place where they will be welcome no matter what they believe,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, in a statement Monday. The group claims to have received numerous reports of religious freedom violations, including complaints that many South Carolina schools impose religion on students.

In response, South Carolina’s education superintendent accused the ACLU of trying to intimidate students from engaging in legitimate religious expression in public places. Sounds like litigation ahead.