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The Proper Place of Theory in Educational History?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Wayne J. Urban*
University of Alabama


I am pleased to respond to this series of essays, shortened versions of which were presented at the AERA meeting in San Diego in April 2009. When I heard Eileen Tamura, Carolyn Eick, and Roland Coloma talk about theory in educational history in San Diego, I responded positively to what I thought was serious work and an invitation to those of us who don't do that kind of work to consider its value. Reading the essays, seeing the arguments fleshed out, I am able here to react more extensively to each.

Copyright © 2011 by the History of Education Society 

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1 Urban, Wayne J., “The Effects of Ideology and Power on a Teacher Walkout: Florida, 1968,” Journal of Collective Negotiations in the Public Sector 3 “Spring 1974“: 133–46.Google Scholar

2 Tamura, Eileen, The History of Discrimination in U.S. Education: Marginality, Agency, and Power “New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008“.Google Scholar

3 Novick, Peter, That Noble Dream: The Objectivity Question and the American Historical Profession “New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988“.Google Scholar

4 Eick, Carolyn, “Learning to Divide in the World: Youth Experiences in a Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive High School, 1950–2000” “PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, 2005“.Google Scholar

5 Urban, Wayne J., “Wayne's World: Growing Up in Cleveland, Ohio, 1942–1963,” Educational Studies 26 “Winter 1995“: 301–20.Google Scholar

6 The volume, tentatively titled Leaders in the History of American Education: Autobiographical Essays, will take its place alongside of two previous volumes, one in philosophy of education and another in curriculum studies, and will be published by Sense Publishing Company of the Netherlands, under the leadership of Leonard Waks, a retired philosopher of education.Google Scholar

7 It should be noted that Klohr helped to initiate a significant upheaval in the field of curriculum studies and, to a lesser extent in curriculum history, with the emergence of a group of theorists knows as the “reconceptualists.”Google Scholar

8 Bernadette Baker has published a book in history of education, though not one which focuses on the United States. See Baker, In Perpetual Motion: Theories of Power, Educational History, and the Child “New York: Peter Lang, 2001”.Google Scholar

9 Coloma, Roland Sintos, “'Destiny Has Thrown the Negro and the Filipino Under the Tutelage of America': Race and Curriculum in the Age of Empire,” Curriculum and Inquiry 39 “2009“: 495–519.Google Scholar

10 Weiler, Kathleen, Country Schoolwomen: Teaching in Rural California, 1850–1950 “Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998“. Also see Weiler and Middleton, Sue, eds., Telling Women's Lives: Narrative Inquiries in the History of Women's Education “Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 1999”.Google Scholar

11 Clark, Burton R., On Higher Education: Selected Writings, 1956–2006 “Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008“, xviii.Google Scholar

12 Karier, Clarence J., Violas, Paul C., and Spring, Joel, eds., Roots of Crisis: American Education in the Twentieth Century “Chicago: Rand McNally, 1973“.Google Scholar

13 Urban, Wayne J., “Some Historiographical Problems in Revisionist Educational History: An Essay Review of Roots of Crisis,” American Educational Research Journal 12 “Summer 1975“: 337–50.Google Scholar

14 I would add the names of Sol Cohen and Richard Angelo as contemporary educational historians who work with theoretical insights and perspectives.Google Scholar