34 I CHRONICLESnthat formerly served America.nPeter McLaren, a Canadian, addressesnhis work to the problems ofnlower-class Azorean students in anCatholic school in Toronto. Itnwould seem, then, that Schooling as anRitual Performance has little to do withnthe future of American education. Regardingnthe particulars of the book,nthis is correct. Theory, however, hasnno respect for borders; it is reasonablento suppose that McLaren would developnsimilar ideas and phobias in annAmerican setting. Anyhow, McLarennclearly means to address his conclusionsnto the fraternity of Western educatorsnin general and not merely to anrestricted group.nEven though McLaren never explicitlynproposes to debunk traditionalnChristian education, that is exacdynwhat he ends up doing. In studying thentreatment of Portuguese junior-highnstudents in Toronto, he arrives at thennot-too-novel conclusion that Catholicneducators, wittingly or unwittingly,nare engaged in bolstering an inherentlynevil capitalist society. How, one maynask, are they doing this? The answernwill not surprise anyone, for it is asnworn as McLaren’s costive deconstructionistnlingo. As instigators of an establishednclassroom (and class) ritual, thenteachers become agents of “class domination”nresulting in the “reproductionnof inequality.” They are able to do thisnby equating model student behaviornwith model Catholic behavior. If anstudent is a good Catholic, he willnwork hard to prepare himself for a lifenworking in a factory or driving a truck.nThus school and Church provide gristnfor the capitalist mill. In pursuing thisnline of reasoning, McLaren never callsnreligion the opiate of the people, butnhe might as well.nIn constructing—or deconstructingn— this insipid Marxist critique fornnearly 300 pages, McLaren managesnone good point. He rightly asserts thatneducators, apparently as much in Canadanas in America, have reducednschooling to job training at the expensenof moral nurturing. But such ancritique requires a careful examinationnof w/idt teachers teach. An educationistnfirst and last, McLaren cannot bringnhimself to go beyond the how of ritualnand method. He prefers to challengeneducators to “develop a curriculum ofncultural politics [that] runs athwart thenlogic of capital and the hegemonicnhold of Late Capitalism.” This tasknwill involve the “deconstruction andndisplacement … of the centrality ofnsymbolic manipulation and moralnviolence . . . which is necessary innorder to promote the insurrection ofnsubjugated student voice and the creationnof a pedagogy of self-empowerment.n” Reading such statements,none is left with the uneasy feelingnthat the power in “empowerment” existsnfor no other reason than to benexercised. If so, McLaren’s ritual andnmethod are really metaphors for manipulationnand control. The only questionnis who will do the controlling.nThis is what results when merenpower and liberation replace the virtuenand piety Christianity once supplied.nClassroom norms, such as obeyingnteachers, working diligently, payingnattention, telling the truth, and growingnup—once regarded as absolutengoods — suddenly acquire the ominousnlabel “the structure of conformity.”nGoofing off in class becomes “thenantistructure of resistance.” (Whatnhappens to an orderly class wherensome teaching might really be done isnanybody’s guess.)The nihilism implicitnin this inversion of meaning does notnseem to worry McLaren. In such anworld he glimpses a hazy Utopian futurenwhere “knowledge and freedomnmeet once and forever.” Yet, again,nwithout the defining, limiting Word,nthis project leads only to the abyssnMcLaren hopes to span. It is in factnthe death of real freedom and morality.nAlan Peshkin’s God’s Choice is a lessndisturbing book than McLaren’s. It is anstraightforward presentation of Peshkin’snfindings on evangelical Christianneducation, focusing on one BethanynBaptist Academy in “Hartney,” Illinois.nPeshkin notes that important asnpure academics are at Bethany, moralitynis the first concern of the teachers.nMoreover, the system works amazinglynwell, since the students and teachersnobey the rules of Scripture. Bethany’snstudents tend to graduate “as loyal,nhonest, hard-working, punctual, andnreliable young adults.” They reverenCod, accept Christ as their Savior,nregard robbery, lying, and cheating asnsins, frown on drugs, and show everynindication of carrying these beliefs intonmaturity. To his credit, Peshkin doesnnnnot appear to find any traces of “thenhegemonic hold of Late Capitalism”nin these virtues and concludes thatnfundamentalist Christian schooling,nthough not an absolute good, is anqualified good.nAll is not rosy, however, in God’snChoice. For one thing, Peshkin betraysna surprising ignorance of the Biblen(Old and New Testaments)—an oddntrait for a man who is both a Jew andnan American. Doctrines such as thenFall and God’s sovereignty seem nevernto have crossed his mind. This sort ofntheological and cultural amnesianwould have been impossible for thenaverage high-school student 50 yearsnago. That a sensitive and intelligentnuniversity professor should display annear complete ignorance of such mattersnreveals the gulf separating thenacademic community from the Christianntradition.nNext and equally unsettiing is Peshkin’sninevitable cry for pluralism,nwhich he sees as the only safeguardnagainst a Christian persecution of non-nChristians. What Peshkin doesn’t realizenis that pluralism, designated nowadaysnthe ultimate civic virtue, canneasily lead to amorality opening thendoor to discordant variations on thentheme of power: terror and tyranny. Innthe absence of the divine Word, thenauthority to permit certain acts andnforbid others loses its ability to directnthe minds of men toward the good.nTo a great extent, the nihilism thatnundergirds the politics of power hasnthe West in a stranglehold. Books likenSchooling as a Ritual Performance arenevidence of its grip. The one glimmernof hope in American and, hence,nWestern education is the Christiannschool. Christianity, far from establishingndictatorships, prevents them bynsubjecting all men to a final arbiternand by limiting the scope of men’sndeeds with the rule of law. The Americannethos has implicitly rested on thenmoral basis most commonly taught innChristian schools. It may be possiblento destroy that ethos; it is impossible tonremain free and preserve our Americanncharacter without it. Peshkin’sncautious admiration of Christian educationnsuggests a faint grasp of this fact.nThe sooner others grasp it, the betternfor all of us.n