The Healing of Progressivist America: The Premises of School Desegregation within U.S. Civil Religion



Date of this version


Document Type



Public schools, Progressivism, Religious rituals, African American culture, African Americans, Healing, School desegregation, Myths, Black people


Durkheimian theory posits a thin line between civil religion and public education. Indeed, Durkheim thought the two were intimately related in modern societies. This article examines the premises of school desegregation as a healing ritual meant to cure the evils wrought by U.S. apartheid. Within the logic of Progressive Education, the idea was to ritually integrate the schools as a miniature melting pot. Operating both symbolically and as a social change agent, the cure would heal America. Meanwhile the policy's assimilationist assumptions discounted U.S. black culture as championed by W.E.B. DuBois. Research on its mixed effects and a new call for multiculturalism have undermined the Progressivist premises of desegregation. Public education's current confused state mirrors larger patterns of mythic struggle within U.S. society.

Published in

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

Citation/Other Information

Lamagdeleine, D. R. (1996). The healing of Progressivist America: The premises of school desegregation within U.S. civil religion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 35(3), 304-317. doi: 10.2307/1386561