Education and Society in Modern France. W. R. Fraser. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 20s.
This book sets out to present an ‘analysis and identification of forces at work’ in the field of educational reform in France. The author states in the preface his own view that ‘the dynamic of reform cannot be halted for long’ (hardly a very vigorous or partisan taking of position!), but attempts to maintain a neutral position in his book, much of which is made up of the quoted views of all sorts of defenders and opponents of educational reform. Unfortunately the author’s self-imposed impartiality proves methodologically disastrous. A great many of the important issues of educational debate in France (and indeed in Britain) are raised in this book, but they emerge as it were willy-nilly, rather than by intent. When Fraser states that his intention is an ‘analysis and identification of forces at work’ he points unerringly to his book’s central weakness. Only an unsparingly analytical approach could have allowed him to identify and locate the ‘forces at work’. In fact his approach is for the most part descriptive, and what analytical categories are applied—‘revolutionary tradition; anti-clericalism, etc—do not really go beyond an immediate, phenomenological level. However, this book is serious, honest, painstaking and can serve, as it is clearly designed to do, to provoke discussion on a wide range of aspects of educational reform—from its content to the forces which encourage or obstruct it. q.h.