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A Matter of Class

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Kathleen A. Murphey*
Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne


In the introduction to this volume, Eileen Tamura, Caroline Eick, and Roland Sintos Coloma state that their essays “are followed by responses by educational historians, some of whom have delved into theory in their historical works, while others have not.” I would describe myself as someone who has questioned the role of theory since I first began studying educational history several decades ago, who has attempted to use theory, and who, thus, warmly welcomes this discussion.

Copyright © 2011 by the History of Education Society 

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1 Katz, Michael B., The Irony of Early School Reform: Educational Innovation in Mid-Nineteenth Century Massachusetts“Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968; New York: Teachers College Press, 2001”; Katz, Michael B., Class, Bureaucracy, and Schools: the Illusion of Educational Change in America “New York: Praeger Press, 1974”; and Katz, Michael B., “The Origins of Public Education: A Reassessment,” in The Social History of American Education, eds. McClellan, B. Edward and Reese, William J. “Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1988”, 91–117, Katz’ presidential address to the History of Education Society in 1976. A revised version of this address appeared in Katz, Michael B., Reconstructing American Education “Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987”.

2 Bowles, Samuel and Gintis, Herbert, Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life “New York: Basic Books, 1976“.

3 For example, Kaestle, Carl F. and Vinovskis, Maris A., Education and Social Change in Massachusetts “Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980“; Vinovskis, Maris, The Origins of Public High Schools: A Reexamination of the Beverly High School Controversy “Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985”. Ravitch, Diane brought the criticism to a head in The Revisionists Revised: A Critique of the Radical Attack on the Schools “New York: Basic Books, 1978”.

4 Katz, Michael B., Improving Poor People: The Welfare State, the “Underclass,” and Urban Schools as History “Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997“; Katz, Michael B., Doucet, Michael J., and Stern, Mark J., The Social Organization of Early Industrial Capitalism “Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982, 1999”; Katz, Michael B. and Stern, Mark J., One Nation Divisible, What America Was and What It Is Becoming “New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2006”.

5 Bowles, Samuel, Gintis, Herbert, and Osborn, Melissa, eds., Unequal Chances: Family Background and Economic Success “Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005“.

6 Murphey, Kathleen A., “Schooling, Teaching, and Change in Nineteenth Century Fort Wayne, Indiana,” Indiana Magazine of History 64, no. 1 “March 1998“: 1–28; Murphey, Kathleen A., “Common School or “One Best System”? Tracking School Reform in Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1853–1875,” Historical Studies in Education/Revue d'histoire de l'education 11, no. 2 “1999”: 188–211; and Murphey, Kathleen A. and Martz, Dawn Runger, “In the Shadow of Brown” Scholarlypartnershipsedu 2, no. 1 “2007”: 5–24, also available at

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7 I felt supported in this approach by History of Education Society colleague Joseph, W. Newman's text, American's Teachers: An Introduction to Education “New York: Longman, 1990; 5th ed., Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon, 2005“, which I used in its various editions for many years.

8 In the meantime critical theory appears to be going in different directions: one embraces postmodernism; one reconsiders Marxism, moves away from postmodernism. See Cole, Mike, Marxism, Postmodernism, and Education “New York: Routledge, 2008“.

9 Murphey, Kathleen A., “NCATE and the Restructuring of Teacher Educators’ Work: A Labor Process Perspective,” in National Teacher Accreditation as Community Dialogue: Transformative Reflections, eds. Swim, Terri, Nichols, Joe D., Murphey, Kathleen A., Moss, Glenda, Merz, Alice, Lindquist, David D., and Kanpol, Barry B. “Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2010“.

10 Poster, Mark, Foucault, Marxism, and History: Mode of Production versus Mode of Information “Cambridge: Polity Press, 1984“, 52. He goes on to say that “This alternative premise does not deny the existence of human beings and things, or their interaction, but it does maintain that the significant objects of investigation for historical materialism are arrangements in which the model of labor does not serve as the impetus of interpretation.” Also, “The premise of technologies of power suggests that discourses and practices are intertwined in articulated formations having the domination of one group over another as their primary trait,” 52.

11 Beadie, Nancy, “Education and the Creation of Capital: Or What I have Learned From following the Money,” The History of Education Quarterly 48, no. 1 “February 2008“: 1–29. Beadie builds on this analysis in Education and the Creation of Capital in the Early American Republic “New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010”.

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12 Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District no. 1 et al., certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit No. 05–908. Argued, 4 December 2006—Decided, 28 June 2007, together with No. 05–915, Meredith, Custodial Parent and Next Friend of McDonald v. Jefferson County “Ky.” Bd. of Ed. et al., on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. 551 U.S., 28 June 2007.

13 Anderson, James D., “Race-Conscious Educational Policies versus a “Color-Blind Constitution”: A Historical Perspective,” Educational Researcher 36, no. 5 “June/July 2007“: 249–257. For the historical research done by Anderson and other historians involved in the Parents and Meredith cases, see Brief of Historians as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents “2007”. The Brief can be downloaded at:

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14 Jackson, Kenneth T., Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States “New York: Oxford University Press, 1985“; Kruse, Kevin Michael and Sugrue, Thomas J., eds., The New Suburban History “Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2006”; Kruse, Kevin Michael, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism “Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005”; Lassiter, Matthew D., The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South “Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006”; Lassiter, Matthew D. and Crespino, Joseph, eds., Myth of Southern Exceptionalism “Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009”; Sugrue, Thomas J., Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North “New York: Random House, 2008”.

15 Dougherty, Jack, “The Rise of ‘Shopping for Schools’ in Suburbia,” paper presented at the History of Education Society Annual Meeting, Cleveland, OH, 25–28 October 2007.

16 The papers presented in the session were: Ansley Erickson, Columbia University, “Using Schools to Define Neighborhoods in Nashville, Tennessee”; Andrew Highsmith, University of Michigan, “Magic Lines of Jim Crow: Neighborhood Schools and the Mythology of Northern Racial Innocence in Flint, Michigan”; Karen Benjamin, St. Xavier University, “Suburbanizing Jim Crow: The Impact of School Policy on Residential Segregation.” Jack Dougherty, Trinity College, chaired the session; Thomas Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania, was discussant.