Democracy Works

Public schools, not government schools

Episode Summary

Our guest this week argues that, much like democracy itself, public education is an ideal that we've never quite lived up to. We discuss the constitutional right to education and how it's ebbed and flowed over the years, following many of the same trends as support for and access to other democratic institutions.

Episode Notes

The Trump administration infamously referred to public schools as "failing government schools," illustrating how education has been caught up in the broader attack on the roots of American democracy. While the language is new, Derek W. Black argues the sentiment very much is not.

Black is a professor of law at the University of South Carolina and one of the nation’s foremost experts in education law and policy, focusing  on school funding and equality for disadvantaged students He is the author of Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy. The book traces the legal history of public education, and how the right to education was challenged during Reconstruction, the Civil Rights era, and other pivotal moments in American history.

After the interview, Candis and Chris discuss the ways that neoliberalism has impacted public education, the promise and peril of teacher's unions, and how COVID-19  has further complicated our already complex relationship with public education.

Additional Information

Black's website

Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy

Black's talk for Penn State's Center for Education and Civil Rights

This week's featured show from The Democracy Group podcast network: How Do We Fix It? 

Related Episodes

School segregation then and now

Citizenship, patriotism, and democracy in the classroom