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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

Listen to a podcast of Annie Sapucaia interviewing Christian Churchill and Gerald Levy for New Books in Sociology, 28 January 2013.

"The Enigmatic Academy is a bold and eye-opening book that plumbs the depths of contemporary schooling in America in considerable detail and with sensitivity and intelligence. A landmark in theoretically sophisticated institutional and social-psychological analysis, this book critically examines the seemingly disparate worlds of a New England hippie/preppie, très expensive, bucolic liberal arts college; an elite, last-chance prep school for the deviant and often troubled youth of the powerful and well-to-do; and, with its pronounced tragedy and self-delusion, an educational center for the American underclass. What makes The Enigmatic Academy worthwhile is its insider’s view of the finer dimensions of institutional life and the profound insights that await the reader."
Steven P. Dandaneau, Associate Provost, Director of the Chancellor's Honors and Haslam Scholars Programs, and Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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.

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Excerpt

Read the Introduction (pdf).

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Reviews

"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."
Library Journal

"[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."
Strategic Enrollment Management Source

"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."
Choice

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Contents

Introduction

PART I Plufort College
The Regional Atmosphere
The Developmental Thrust
The Symbiotic Community
The Academic Trajectory
The Sociopolitical Whirlpool
The Socially Ironic Reality Screen
The Public Relations Panorama
The Competitive Strain
Conclusion: The Bureaucratic Grip

PART II Mountainview School
The Brahmin Tone
The Civil Service Intrusion
The Embattled Entitlement Path
The Clubbable Induction
The Currency of Behavior
The Leisured Deviance Realm
Conclusion: Rentier Incorrigibility in Academe

PART III Landover Job Corps Center
History: Profit Motives, Local Fears, Violent Outbreaks
Approaching Landover
The River to the Job
Responses to Institutionalized Failure
Students: “It’s A Risky Place”
Conclusion: The Veil of Ennui

Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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About the Author(s)

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.

Subject Categories

Education
Sociology
Religion

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