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date: 12 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Education in America today lacks a meaningful vision. The equal educational opportunity goal proclaimed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education has been undermined by the failures in the decades since of the federal courts to implement school desegregation effectively and of Congress and the state legislatures to follow through on their stated commitments to ensure that all children can learn at high levels. This chapter argues that both equity and excellence can be achieved in American education if (1) preparation for capable citizenship, the original purpose of public education in America, can be revived in a manner that responds to twenty-first-century needs for both equity and excellence, and (2) the courts play a sustained, constructive role in bringing about these changes by enforcing relevant constitutional provisions that require schools to prepare students for capable citizenship. The first part of the chapter describes how for the past half century, schools have systematically failed to prepare students to be capable citizens, and the causes of this failure. It then provides a detailed analysis of how children can be prepared appropriately to function productively as civic participants. The second part explains why the promotion of educational equity and excellence of this sort cannot, however, be realized without the active involvement of the courts, both to validate the importance of education for civic preparation and to establish the necessary preconditions for adequate and equal funding and racial and cultural integration that are necessary for these reforms to succeed.

Keywords: Education for citizenship, Democratic education, Capable citizenship, Equal educational opportunity, School finance, School integration, Civic education, Adequacy litigation, Systemic reform litigation

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