Book Review

School and Society

by Walter Feinberg and Jonas F. Soltis, 5th ed., Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y., 2009, 143 pp., $19.95 softcover

School and Society, 5th edition, explores theoretical approaches as to the purpose of public schools in American society. Walter Feinberg and Jonas Soltis present three different approaches to describing this purpose — the functionalist, the interpretive theorist and the conflict theorist.

Functionalism, the authors explain, posits that schools operate to socialize students to the society they will enter as adults. The interpretative view sees schools as preparing students to comprehend and share the rules and norms necessary to interact in society. Though different theories exist for the third school of thought, conflict theory, the authors focus on only one: Marxist theory. The Marxist school of thought regarding the purpose of schooling is that the schools prepare students for their place in the social order.

Each school of thought is examined not only for its strengths and weaknesses but also for the influence each has had on public education.

In addition, this work looks at the “hidden curriculum” — that is, the practices and habits that are taught above and beyond the traditional academic curriculum.

School and Society is not a how-to book or a case study. Feinberg and Soltis have injected some academic research into this work, reminding those of us working as administrators of the different schools of thought regarding the purpose for public education in America.

Reviewed by Marc Space, superintendent, Putnam Valley Central School District, Putnam Valley, N.Y.