Challenging the common idea that education can save the individual and society from major problems of the modern world
The Enigmatic Academy
Class, Bureaucracy, and Religion in American Education
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Christian J. Churchill and Gerald E. Levy
The Enigmatic Academy is a provocative look at the purpose and practice of education in America. Authors Christian Churchill and Gerald Levy use three case studies—a liberal arts college, a boarding school, and a Job Corps center—to illustrate how class, bureaucratic, and secular-religious dimensions of education prepare youth for participation in American foreign and domestic policy at all levels.
Exploring how youth and their educators encounter the complexities of ideology and bureaucracy in school, The Enigmatic Academy deepens our understanding of the flawed redemptive relationship between education and society in the United States. Paradoxically, these three schools studied prepare students to participate in a society whose values they oppose.
"Churchill and Levy here consider whether education, more than real personal growth and learning, is an engine for social mobility. They contend that while academies talk of change, they in fact support the status quo. Three detailed (and often unflattering) profiles examine a private liberal arts college; an exclusive and very expensive last-chance prep school; and a Jobs Corps center that attempts to provide vocational training and GED support.... The case studies support the authors' argument that education as it exists today does not help students along a path to social or financial advancement, but rather trains them to conform (or appear to conform) to school rules in order to maintain or slightly better their position in society."
"[T]he cases are insightful and comprehensive ethnographies that offhandedly integrate aspects of academics—student life and student support, marketing, recruitment, retention, community relations and government policies—they are engaging and thought-provoking from many enrollment management/student services perspectives.... [The authors'] observations are intense and insightful."
"Their research method is ethnographic case studies of three kinds of schools (for which the book is organized into three parts).... Each part ends with a conclusion that is a superb summary of the previous analysis, and the summaries will make the blood of readers concerned with social justice boil.... Summing Up: Recommended."
"The cooperation between Churchill and Levy gives this book its depth and lends interest to the case studies described within.... Churchill and Levy succeed in their thorough descriptions of these groups in terms of their respective hopes, motivations, and ability to create change on an organizational level. The Enigmatic Academy would serve well as a course text...or perhaps as a book study for a group well-read in sociology....The complex interactions that power, control and social change have on educational institutions is a reality that deserves more understanding and Churchill and Levy's research provides a considerable contribution toward this growing body of insight."
"[T]his book will be of most value to those seeking qualitative accounts of class-based socialization in different types of educational settings. The authors have done a fine job of shedding light on sites like small liberal arts colleges, elite boarding schools, and unaccredited job training programs that are often not part of mainstream discussions in sociology of education areas focused on the modal educational experience."
PART I Plufort College
PART II Mountainview School
PART III Landover Job Corps Center
Christian J. Churchill is Professor of Sociology at St. Thomas Aquinas College, author of numerous articles in sociology, and a licensed psychoanalyst in private practice in Manhattan.
Gerald E. Levy is a sociologist and the author of Ghetto School: Class Warfare in an Elementary School. He taught at the college level for forty years and is now retired.