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An Examination of the Realities
Charles V. Hamilton
It is clear that education performs a major socializing function in society, and it is clear that this is one of its primary functions. We may look to the schools to teach children reading, writing and arithmetic, but we must admit that we also look to the schools for the inculcation of a particular civic culture. The schools are expected to instill a set of normative values which support, not challenge, the existing societal values. "Education," then, has meant learning to think for oneself only within certain given sets of rules, within a particular given consensual framework.
It is understandable, therefore, that when you get attacks on the educational system from groups within the society--groups which are becoming increasingly alienated--those attacks will not focus exclusively on ways to make the existing schools more effective. It is not surprising that some of those attacks will eventually get around to attacking the very legitimacy of those institutions. If the American society is basically a racist society, it follows that one of the major institutions for transmitting and perpetuating that racism has been the schools. It further follows that policies and programs aimed at strengthening those institutions will lead essentially to a perpetuation of racism. Thus, some of the major recent documents on race and education* concentrate on the wrong things, or at least they ask incomplete questions. The Coleman Report, for example, focuses on raising the verbal and arithmetic skills of black children. That Report assumed the basic legitimacy of the normative values of the schools. What was overlooked was that many black parents today
*See: James S. Coleman, et al. Equality of Educational Opportunity, Office of Education, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Washington D.C.: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966; and Racial Isolation in the Public Schools, A Report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Volume I, Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 1967.

Dr. Charles V. Hamilton is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Studies at Roosevelt University.

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