Pioneers Progress: An Autobiography

Pioneers Progress: An Autobiography

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"This is the story of a long and brilliant career in American education... [Johnson] writes with humor, modesty, and what seems to be total recall, a fascinating report of a useful life." — Bruce Bliven, The New York Times

"Alvin Johnson has written a first-rate life history, but by that fact he has also written a good deal more. For he has told his life in a way that shows how it holds in microcosm all the dominant themes of our American history and society... [Johnson] must have been a bewildering paradox for his more solemn academic colleagues — a Nebraska farmer who knew the dead languages and most of the European living ones, an economist who knew literature and anthropology and the 'new' psychology, an original thinker who was at ease in the columns of the New Republic, an irreverent man who refused to follow the latest revolutionary dogmas but was merciless in knocking the sawdust out of the stuffy orthodoxies... [Johnson] can believe in other men because he has a quiet fortress of strength in himself. Lytton Strachey remarked that it is harder to write a good life than to lead one. Alvin Johnson has done both." — Max Lerner, The American Scholar

"This autobiography is remarkable for the long and fruitful span of life which it records, for the rich and varied contents, and for the humor which the author plays upon every chapter... every chapter bears witness to the honesty of the author's statement: 'Never in all my life have I given a hoot for personal security.'" — George M. Stephenson, The American Historical Review

"This American success story is refreshingly different from the usual rags-to-riches one. Alvin Johnson is the best kind of man that America produces, and his autobiography, both in the writing and the story that is told, is one of the best books of the year." — The Providence Journal

"It is necessary for any thoughtful American to take Pioneer's Progress in hand. You can pick it up, lay it down, come back to it at any odd moment, even on the subway, with pleasure and profit. It is as various in content as a good meal." — Dorothy Canfield Fisher

"What you will remember is the Nebraska boy applying his farmbred wisdom and his father's courage to all the questions that fate tossed his way." — New York Herald Tribune

"Alvin Johnson's biography ought to be required reading, both here and abroad, for anyone who wants to understand American government, and the American spirit." — Adolf A. Berle, Jr.

"A fine and mellow autobiography by the father of adult education in this country... His book is alive with anecdotes on everything from life on a remote Nebraska farm to pioneering in the field of the social sciences... Education's man of action, in a self-portrait which is permeated with a homespun charm and humor and invigorated by the character of the man and his impressive influence." — Kirkus Reviews

"This book relates the interesting life story of a great American liberal and intellectual leader... The reader of Pioneer's Progress is constantly amazed at the versatility of a man who is able to cram so many good works into one lifetime. Yet, his book is written with such simplicity, modesty, and self-deprecating humor that one cannot help but like as well as admire him." — L. S. Curtis, Journal of Negro History

"[A] lively story which the more-or-less-retired president of the New School has written about his activities up to now... a man's record of his own life... Among the causes which this man helped turn into movements were land reclamation, rescue of scholars from destruction (by Hitler, Mussolini, and the Communists), peace, and racial justice. But adult education is his great consuming passion. Of this the New School for Social Research, whose founding president he was, is living testimony... To Alvin Johnson, all causes — racial justice, peace, better farming and better health, what have you — are one with adult education. One learns by reading, by observing, by arguing, by acting, by interacting with other people... And perhaps this is the important thing about the man; he would not be confined... And it is in the story of the New School that we learn what the man Johnson really is... This man is strictly a public entrepreneur." — Everett C. Hughes, Commentary Magazine

Product Details

BN ID: 2940163069606
Publisher: Plunkett Lake Press
Publication date: 05/22/2020
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Born near Homer, Nebraska, Alvin Saunders Johnson (1874-1971) was an educator, editor, economist, and author. His parents were Danish immigrants. Johnson grew up on the family farm and graduated in 1897 from the University of Nebraska with a major in the classics. In 1902, Johnson earned a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University. His teaching career included stints at Columbia, Bryn Mawr, Cornell, Stanford, the University of Nebraska, University of Texas, University of Chicago, and The New School. He was editor of the Political Science Quarterly (1902-1906) and The New Republic, from 1917.

In 1922, Johnson was among the founders of The New School for Social Research, became its director, and later, president, a position he held until 1946. Under his leadership, The New School grew into one of the nation’s most important centers of adult education, as well as a leader in the social sciences. While working as associate editor on The Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, Johnson came into close contact with European scholars, and became acutely alert to the threat posed by the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany. This led Johnson to mount a campaign to rescue scholars whose professional success, livelihoods, and, increasingly, lives, were endangered. In 1933, largely supported by the benefactor Hiram Halle, Johnson finally successful in his efforts, established the University-in-Exile at The New School (later called the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science); later, during World War II, he also invited exiled French scholars to reestablish the Ecole Libre at The New School.

A prolific writer before and after his retirement, Johnson’s autobiography, Pioneer's Progress, was published in 1952. Johnson died in Nyack, New York.

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