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According to many scholars, classrooms in America are overwhelmingly authoritarian and undemocratic. They focus on fragmented knowledge that is disconnected from the students' lives. Proven reforms are resisted at all levels, and systematic progressive change is non-existent nearly a century after the progressive movement. Why is this so? The standard liberal outlook is that the schools are `broken' and `neglected', but that they have the potential, with reform, to be a major progressive force in society. This paper questions these assumptions through a review of the seminal educational-economic work by Bowles and Gintis: Schooling in Capitalist America. The major claim of this text is that our educational system's primary role is to mirror, support, stabilize, and reproduce the fundamentally hierarchical and undemocratic social relationships that exist in the majority of American workplaces. The major arguments and evidence of this text are reviewed, and implications for PER will be briefly mentioned.
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