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How Does the State Structure Secularization?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2015

Damon Mayrl*
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid []
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Why do similar modern nations accord religion different roles in their public institutions? This paper engages this question by examining trends in religious instruction in the public schools of the United States and Australia from 1850 to 1950. I find that American education secularized farther and faster than Australian education because of its decentralized system of educational administration. In the United States, decentralized educational administration facilitated challenges to religious exercises by religious minorities, fostered professional development among educators, and allowed novel educational practices oriented in new educational theories rather than religion to spread. In Australia, by contrast, centralized state control over education insulated majoritarian religious exercises from minority criticism, suppressed professional development, and helped maintain traditional educational practices that sustained religious instruction. The state thus has both mediating and constitutive effects on secularization, a finding which opens new directions for research into the dynamics of secularization.


Pourquoi des nations modernes similaires accordent-elles à la religion des rôles différents dans leurs institutions publiques ? Cet article aborde cette question à partir de l'examen des tendances de l'enseignement religieux dans les écoles publiques aux États-Unis et en Australie entre 1850 et 1950. Il montre que l'éducation américaine relève d'une forme avancée de sécularisation en raison du caractère décentralisé de l'administration scolaire. Aux États-Unis, cette décentralisation a facilité tout à la fois la mise en cause des activités des minorités religieuses, la professionnalisation des éducateurs et la diffusion de nouvelles pratiques éducatives davantage ancrées dans les théories de l'éducation que dans la religion. Á l’inverse, en Australie, le contrôle centralisé de l'État sur l'éducation a contribué à insulariser les pratiques religieuses majoritaires des critiques minoritaires, à ralentir tout développement professionnel, et à maintenir des pratiques éducatives traditionnelles étroitement liées à l'instruction religieuse. En mettant en évidence la variété des effets de l’État, l'article ouvre de nouvelles perspectives pour la recherche sur les dynamiques de la sécularisation.


Weshalb werden der Religion in vergleichbaren modernen Nationen jeweils andere Aufgaben in öffentlichen Institutionen zugewiesen? Der Beitrag verfolgt diese Frage, gestützt auf die Entwicklungen des Religionsunterrichts öffentlicher amerikanischer und australischer Schulen von 1850 bis 1950. Er zeigt, dass der amerikanische Unterricht sich durch eine vorangeschrittene Form der Säkularisierung auszeichnet, da von der Schulbehörde dezentralisiert aufgebaut. In den Vereinigten Staaten hat diese Dezentralisierung sowohl die Hinterfragung der Aktivitäten religiöser Minderheiten, als auch die Berufsausbildung der Erzieher und die Verbreitung neuer Erziehungstechniken erlaubt, mehr auf Erziehungstheorien als auf Religion basierend. Im Unterschied zu Australien, wo die zentralistische, staatliche Kontrolle die mehrheitlichen Religionspraktiken von der Minderheitenkritik isoliert, jegliche Berufsentwicklung gedrosselt und traditionelle Erziehungspraktiken in enger Verbindung zur Religionserziehung gehalten hat. Die Betonung der verschiedenartigen Auswirkungen staatlichen Eingriffs eröffnet neue Forschungsperspektiven der Säkularisierungsdynamiken.

Research Article
Copyright © A.E.S. 2015 

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