Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: The Production of Judeo-Christianity in New York City Public Schools: Religion, Race, and Moral Education, 1950-1969
Authors: Ribovich, Leslie
Advisors: Weisenfeld, Judith
Contributors: Religion Department
Subjects: Religion
Education history
American history
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation is a history of the religious and racial aspects of moral education in 1950s-1960s New York City (NYC) public schools. The project has implications for how scholars understand the relationship between Cold War religious ideologies and the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the history of religion in public schools. First, I study three areas of programming through which school officials taught what they called the “Judeo-Christian ethic” in attempts to make students moral: moral and spiritual values curricula, juvenile delinquency prevention and treatment, and racial integration programming. Then, I examine two events that challenged the universality of schools’ “Judeo-Christian ethic” and revealed its narrow, assimilationist vision of racial and religious coexistence: the debate about government aid to parochial schools during the 1967 New York State Constitutional Convention and the 1967-1968 struggle for community control of schools in Brooklyn and Harlem. I connect early Cold War religiosity and the northern Civil Rights Movement by showing that the Civil Rights Movement in NYC public schools responded in part to the racialized nature of the universalist ideas of Judeo-Christian religious liberalism. Using uncommon sources in American religious history, such as public school policies and curriculum guidelines, I contribute to the histories of public education, Judeo-Christianity, and the northern Civil Rights Movement. First, I challenge the notion that public schools became or should have become secular after early 1960s Supreme Court decisions ruling school prayer and Bible-reading unconstitutional. I suggest that religion in public schools appeared as ideas about morality, not only as contained moments that could be inserted or removed from schools. Second, I claim that the particular iteration of Judeo-Christianity in NYC public schools allowed school officials to express support for positive notions of racial coexistence while simultaneously avoiding policies for which parents of color advocated. Third, I argue that because the Judeo-Christian repertoire concealed assimilationist meanings behind inclusive terms, it motivated demands for community control in NYC. Taken together, these contributions demystify the public school as a site to study religious practice and relay the significance of ideas about Judeo-Christian pluralism to the northern Civil Rights Movement.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

Files in This Item:
This content is embargoed until 2021-09-19. For more information contact the Mudd Manuscript Library.

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.