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Transformation in Perspective: Lawrence Cremin's Transformation of the School

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 February 2017

John L. Rury*
Affiliation:
School for New Learning, an alternative liberal arts college for adults at DePaul University

Extract

Author's note: This essay, intended to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Transformation of the School (New York, 1961), was nearly complete when news came of Lawrence Cremin's sudden, tragic death in early September 1990. I had written it in the present tense, as though Cremin were alive, and for that matter, as though Transformation represented his current views. I can see no good reason for changing it. For many—perhaps most—historians of education, Lawrence Cremin will continue to represent a vital intellectual force for years to come. I prefer to let this review stand in its original form as a tribute to the enduring quality of his contributions to our field.

Type
Retrospective
Copyright
Copyright © 1991 by the History of Education Society 

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References

1. For acknowledgment of the influence of Bailyn, and Katz, , see Edward McClellan, B. and Reese, William J., The Social History of American Education (Urbana, Ill., 1988), viiix.

2. For Cremin's views on Cubberley, see Cremin, Lawrence, The Wonderful World of Ellwood Patterson Cubberley: An Essay on the Historiography of American Education (New York, 1965). Also see Bailyn's, Bernard Education in the Formation of American Society (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1960).

3. See Michael Katz's comments in a forum, titled “The Metropolitan Experience in American Education,” History of Education Quarterly 29 (Fall 1989): 426–27. This view has been echoed by more than a half dozen other educational historians in personal conversations over the past two months.

4. For the account of Parker, see Cremin, Lawrence, Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876–1957 (New York, 1961), 132.

5. For an excellent overview of the literature on progressive education, see Mirel, Jeffrey E., “Progressive School Reform in Comparative Perspective,” in Southern Cities, Southern Schools: Public Education in the Urban South, ed. Plank, David N. and Ginsberg, Rick (New York, 1990), 151–74. For the revisionist perspective, see Spring, Joel, Education and the Rise of the Corporate State (Boston, 1972); Karier, Clarence, Violas, Paul, and Spring, Joel, Roots of Crisis: American Education in the Twentieth Century (Chicago, 1973); and Tyack, David, The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education (Cambridge, Mass., 1974).

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Interestingly, there is evidence that Cremin was aware of this perspective when writing Transformation. In a footnote on page 158, he cites the work of Raymond Callahan, whose interpretation anticipated many of the studies of this period eventually labeled “revisionist.”

6. There is an extensive literature on these issues today. For a recent overview see Butchart, Ronald, “‘Outthinking and Outflanking the Owners of the World’: A Historiography of the African American Struggle for Education,” History of Education Quarterly 28 (Fall 1988): 333–66. For particular studies see Anderson, James D., The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1989); Harlan, Louis, Booker T. Washington: The Making of a Black Leader, 1856–1901 (New York, 1972); Harlan, Louis, Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901–1915 (New York, 1983); and Franklin, Vincent, The Education of Black Philadelphia: The Social and Educational History of a Minority Community, 1900–1950 (Philadelphia, 1979). There was a substantial literature on these questions at the time that Cremin wrote Transformation as well. See Horace Mann Bond, The Education of the Negro in the American Social Order (New York, 1934); and Harlan, Louis, Separate and Unequal: Public School Campaigns and Racism in the Southern Seaboard States, 1901–1915 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1958). On the 1917 Army IQ test, see Gould, Stephen J., The Mismeasure of Man (New York, 1981), 192–233; or my own article, “Race, Region, and Education: An Analysis of Black-White Differences on the 1917 Army IQ Test,” journal of Negro Education 57 (Winter 1988): 51–65.

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7. On the impact of progressivism on women, see Powers, Jane Bernard, “The Girl Question in Education: Vocational Training for Young Women in the Progressive Era” (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 1987); or Rury, John L., Education and Women's Work: Female Schooling and the Division of Labor in Urban America, 1870–1930 (Albany, forthcoming 1991). A recent assessment of the impact of progressive reform on other groups can be found in Fass, Paula, Outside In: Minorities and the Transformation of American Education (New York, 1989), chs. 1 and 2.

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8. Perhaps the best recent examples of this sort of research are Perlmann, Joel, Ethnic Differences: Schooling and Social Structure among the Irish, Italians, Jews, and Blacks in an American City, 1880–1935 (New York, 1988); and Ueda, Reed, Avenues to Adulthood: The Origins of the High School and Social Mobility in an American Suburb (New York, 1987). On regional differences, see Rury, , Education and Women's Work.

9. Cuban, Larry, How Teachers Taught: Constancy and Change in American Classrooms, 1890–1980 (New York, 1984), conclusion. In the closing chapters of the book Cremin also seems to accept many of the criticisms of progressivism leveled by Arthur Bestor and other critics in the fifties.

10. Hofstadter, Richard, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R. (New York, 1955); Wiebe, Robert, The Search for Order, 1877–1920 (New York, 1967); and Crunden, Robert M., Ministers of Reform: The Progressives' Achievement in American Civilization, 1889–1920 (New York, 1982).

11. See the Holmes Group document, Tomorrow's Schools: Principle for the Design of Professional Development Schools (East Lansing, Mich., 1990).

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