Professor Justin Driver has written a brilliant book. The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind focuses on the Supreme Court and public elementary and secondary schools. He looks at all the major areas where the Court has considered constitutional issues arising in the public school context: free speech, school discipline, investigations of students,inequalities based on race and sex and income, and religion.
In each area, Professor Driver presents the major Supreme Court decisions and often tells the underlying story of the litigation. He relates the Court’s rulings to the social issues of the time, and he describes the public reaction to the major decisions. I found this aspect of the book fascinating and original, as Professor Driver looks to what followed the decisions and describes the reactions in newspapers and by politicians. The book is comprehensive, covering almost all the Supreme Court’s decisions concerning public elementary and secondary education, but at the same time it is very accessible to a wide audience. The book is beautifully written. Professor Driver is a great storyteller, and throughout the book he is telling the reader about the people involved in the litigation and what it meant to them.
The book thus will be an invaluable resource for those looking at issues concerning the Constitution in public schools. In teaching Criminal Procedure this semester, I used the material in the book on police searches in schools and found things in the book that I have not seen elsewhere. At the same time, those with no prior knowledge of constitutional law can enjoy and be informed by this magnificent book. Professor Driver has managed to write a book that will be invaluable for scholars and constitutional litigators, while at the same time it is accessible and informative for a general audience.
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