[An] exemplary, thoroughly readable account.
"This book takes you through the history of how the idea of public education began, to where we are right now. . . . It's so beautifully done, judiciously done, and I'm really proud to help it along."
From windowless Puritan classrooms to one-room prairie schoolhouses to digitally connected home-schoolers, American public education has been a focus of change, idealism, and struggle. This accessible history serves as the companion volume to the PBS series.
Chronologically arranged in four sections (1770-1890, 1900-1950, 1950-1980, 1980-2000), this anthology covers much ground (charter, common, frontier and dame schools) at a brisk, engaging pace. These five eminent scholars catalogue the experiences of African-Americans, Catholics, Native Americans, Mexican-Americans, people with disabilities and girls in an educational system originally designed for Protestant white boys. Tyack and company nimbly chart changing educational philosophies (Horace Mann, John Dewey, the Gary Plan, Archbishop John Hughes) and public debates, such as those aroused by the introduction of IQ tests in the 1920s, the 1957 launching of Sputnik (prompting fear that Soviet education outshone U.S. education) and the 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk, an assessment of the state of public education by "a presidential commission of corporate and public leaders and educators." And there are surprises "black literacy soared in the decades after the Civil War, from 5 percent to 70 percent"; "New York's English-only curriculum was radical" in the 1910s; in the 1930s two-thirds of Los Angeles's Mexican-American students were classified as "slow learners... even mentally retarded" after the introduction of IQ tests; Lyndon Johnson was a schoolteacher; and in 1970 women received "less than 1 percent of all medical and legal degrees." This exemplary, thoroughly readable account of a "complex and controversial and open-ended" subject is enhanced by 125-plus photos and illustrations. (Sept. 12) Forecast: This companion to the PBS documentary series will attract a significant readership. Though balanced, it will stir controversy at a time when reform leans toward business modelsand Horace Mann's belief "that all citizens" are responsible for the education of all children is being challenged. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
This companion volume to a PBS documentary series airing this month is filled with over 125 historic photographs, essays by five prominent education historians, and text based on the documentary script, which is narrated by Meryl Streep on television. The photos provide chronological perspective by showing school-themed paintings, portraits of eminent educators, pages from early primers, and old pictures of students, teachers, classrooms, and equipment. Sections of the book correspond to the documentary's parts. "The Educated Citizen" covers 1770-1890 and describes public education's Colonial beginnings. "You Are an American" spans the first half of the 20th century, when John Dewey's progressive philosophy was a major influence. "Separate but Unequal" tells of the nation's struggles to deal with racial, cultural, and bilingual issues, and "A Nation at Risk?" discusses how education policymakers have responded to the 1983 mandate for school reform. Though not as comprehensive as many longer works (e.g., Joel Spring's The American School, 1642-2000 (McGraw-Hill, 2000. 5th ed.), this is still a good overview of the history of U.S. public education and succeeds nicely as a companion to the TV show. None of the other single-volume American education histories are very well illustrated, if at all, and the pictures here are probably the main attraction. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Will Hepfer, SUNY at Buffalo Libs. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Adult/High School-A direct and well-written text and the liberal use of historical photographs make School one of the few books available on the history of education in America written for the layperson. Although some earlier material is included, the bulk of the text and photographs covers the founding of a universal public-educational system in the mid to late 19th century to the inclusion battles of the early 1970s. A single flaw of this otherwise worthy book is a bias against the more bottom-line and business-oriented influences following the "America at Risk" report in the early 1980s. Those looking for a harsh critique of the American school system will not find it here. The history of alternative schooling is not included, and there's not much coverage given to curriculum-development issues such as the phonics/whole-language debate, and other methodologies. The roughly chronological layout allows readers to trace the roots of the philosophy and rituals still surrounding the average public-school day for most students. This information will be the primary attraction for teen readers, as the whys and hows of their school day unfold beneath their fingertips. A companion book for the "School: The Story of American Public Education" documentary series on PBS television.-Sheryl Fowler, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
This earnest tie-in to a PBS series provides a solid introduction to the roller-coaster ride that has been public education in the US for the last 200 years. The goals and aspirations, and the contentions, that have shaped public education, write the authors, find their reflection in a wider societal context as to who we are as a nation. As the notion of a common school arose after the Revolutionary War, there was little doubt that schooling was for the common good, but would the different states find in it a common purpose? No-the schools would more likely display the social diversity of the country, showcase ethnic and racial bias, and serve as arenas for political struggles. It is fascinating to watch here as the public-education agendas rise and fall like great waves. The common-school movement-with its grassroots governance and consensual curriculum (meaning republicanism braced with Protestant moral teaching)-gave way to the policy elites in the early 20th century, when the exaltation of the expert meant out with the lay teachers and rural school trustees, in with the education know-it-all. Then, in a rush, the democracy of difference, extolling big schools with grand centralized planning, followed closely by the small-is-beautiful movement, calling for a return of standards and greater parental involvement, breaching the buffer that had protected school administrations from participatory democracy. Running through the whole process, now quietly, now with vigor, were the needs of cultural and economic democracy. All of this is amply illustrated here-including essays by education historians Carl Kaestle on common schools, Diane Ravitch on the immigrant experience, James Anderson onquestions of race, and Larry Cuban on the insidious idea of education as a consumer product-including most remarkably that government-distrusting, tax-pinching, independent Americans have any public education at all. A worthy attempt to highlight the common good of public education that for all its blisters and boils, is at least a stab at democracy.