From Colonies to Nation: Locating the Historical Legitimacy of the American Charter School Movement




Goodridge, Shane Michael

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From colonies to nation, this work identifies and emphasizes the influence of interdependent communal relationships on the ascent of the charter school movement. These ideals were made manifest in colonial social covenants that were then compromised by the conformist republican mandate of the common school. These ideals were recovered incrementally as education was affected by broader historical forces, most notably the implementation of court-sanctioned racial apartheid during the Plessy era, the reaction to the underwhelming impact of Brown, and, beginning in the 1980s, the rise of legislation that prepared the way for charter schools. Moreover, this work challenges the assumption that charter schools have proven popular with American citizens due solely to promises of superior academic results. Alternatively, this work suggests that charter schools have prospered because they have challenged the state monopoly in K-12 education, and have thus returned balance to the dynamic between the individual and the state. Finally, this work troubles the idea that charter schools are balkanizing American education, suggesting that the right of citizens to form charter schools, in an effort to sustain unique communities, justifies and is in fact endorsed by the American metanarrative. Research on American charter schools lacks a coherent historical framework. This work provides the charter school movement with an historical narrative that argues for the movement’s legitimacy based on its consistency with the American Republic’s founding philosophy.



Brown v. Board of Education, Charter Schools, communal covenants, First Amendment, John Locke, Plessy v Ferguson