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I have often argued to students, only in part to be perverse, that one cannot understand the history of education in the United States during the twentieth century unless one realizes that Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost. The statement is too simple, of course, but nevertheless more true than untrue and useful for several reasons. First, it suggests that, even if Thorndike and Dewey both spoke and wrote in the “progressive” idiom, the differences of view that separated them were large and significant. Beyond that, it calls attention to differences in the way each man's ideas were received. If Dewey has been revered among some educators and his thought has had influence across a greater range of scholarly domains—philosophy, sociology, politics, and social psychology, among them—Thorndike's thought has been more influential within education. It helped to shape public school practice as well as scholarship about education. Finally, the observation that Thorndike won and Dewey lost has value because it can open new questions about the Deweyan legacy, which, despite the many extant studies (some of which are excellent), remains richly suggestive and worthy of further exploration.
In the United States today schooling is thoroughly identified with the special place in which formal teaching and learning occur. So intimate is the link between schooling and the schoolhouse that in the 1960s “schools without walls,” where pupils learn while associating with adults in everyday environments, were hailed as revolutionary. Americans expect their young to be instructed in separate spaces, and since the inception of public education in the early nineteenth century, they have become increasingly conscious of the appearance, layout, and location of those spaces. They have invested enormous sums of money in the design and construction of schools; in turn, schools have become among the most numerous and easily identifiable public buildings in the United States. The schoolhouse is synonymous with education and a reminder to all of an important time in their lives.
The most notorious controversy in the history of woman's education began modestly, virtually in private, on a December afternoon in 1872. The occasion was the regular monthly meeting of the New England Woman's Club, a group that numbered Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone among its members and that, like them, was inclined toward literate discourse, genteel reform, and the moderate wing of the woman's rights movement. The precipitatingincident was a guest lecture given by Edward Hammond Clarke, a prominent Boston physician. The ultimate result was debate so bitter that years later G. Stanley Hall referred to it as a “holy war.”
In the United States, the vast majority of individuals labeled as retarded fall under the category of educable mental retardation. These persons are described as “functionally handicapped” because they are without signs of organic disorder or brain pathology. Furthermore, they are drawn almost exclusively from poor families, often of minority origin, an attribute that makes educable mental retardation unique among modern special education classifications and which has made it the subject of controversy since the late 1960s.
One of the most vigorous debates in the history of education in recent years has been about the relation of education to industrialization, in particular how since the early nineteenth century, industrialization has influenced the development of state-supported systems of education requiring universal, compulsory school attendance. Interest in these issues has not been confined solely to historians of education. Sociologists and political scientists have also joined the fray in attempts to advance understandings of the roots of mass education systems. The result is a wealth of studies on the development of many important aspects of state education systems on three continents, with North American work being by far the most prominent.
The field of family history has been in creative ferment in recent years as historians have debated whether or not the early modern era brought a fundamental change in family life. While historians such as Philippe Ariès, Lawrence Stone, and Edward Shorter have claimed that families became closer and more child-centered, others deny major changes in the emotional lives of families have occurred. The skeptics suggest the impossibility of deriving any conclusions about the level of attachment family members felt for each other. They also point out that those emphasizing increased intimacy and attachment cite different time periods when this change is supposed to have occurred: estimates range from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, with most historians settling on the eighteenth century.
Esteem and disgrace are of all the others, the most powerful incentives to the mind, when once it is brought to relish them. If you can once get into children a love of credit, and an apprehension of shame and disgrace, you have put into them the true principle, which will constantly work, and incline them to the right. But it will be asked, How shall this be done? John Locke
The great secret of education is to direct vanity to [its] proper objects. Adam Smith
Recent reports on the state of American education underline again and again the importance of competitive individualism in contemporary classrooms and the extraordinary uniformity of classroom organization and pedagogy across the country. John Goodlad, for example, reports that despite “the rhetoric of individual flexibility, originality and creativity,” American pedagogy invariably emphasizes simultaneous instruction (“frontal teaching”) in teacher-dominated classrooms, competition, individual performance and achievement, “listening, reading textbooks, completing workbooks and worksheets, and taking quizzes,” “seeking right answers, conforming, and reproducing the known.” This paper will argue that the social relations, organization, and psychology of the contemporary classroom system are interdependent and that they entered English and American education with the penetration of the classroom by the market and “disciplinary” revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Addressing the Atlanta Board of Education at its January 1898 meeting, Superintendent William F. Slaton called for the adoption of a regulation to “prevent children of dull minds and weak intellects from remaining 3 or 4 years in the same grade.” Their presence, Slaton stated, was leading “to the annoyance of the teacher and detriment of the grade.” This call to deal with low achieving students was not the only recommendation to alter existing school policies and programs that the city's Board of Education heard that year or the next. In his annual reports for both 1898 and 1899, Slaton called on the Board of Education to introduce vocational education into Atlanta's course of study to meet the needs of high school students who, as he put it, “are bread-winners early in life and subsequently heads of families.” And during May 1899, the Board of Education received proposals urging it to introduce physical education into the curriculum and to establish kindergarten classes in several of the city's schools. Here were the first stirrings of Progressive educational reform, which would lead in Atlanta, as in other urban school systems, to a differentiated program, including vocational education and guidance, kindergartens, junior high schools, and special classes for handicapped children.
The editors of the History of Education Quarterly are pleased to present this forum on Lawrence A. Cremin's American Education: The Metropolitan Experience, 1876–1980. Beginning in the 1960s, Cremin began to chart a new and distinctive approach to the study of America's educational past. This final volume on “the metropolitan experience” therefore completes a trilogy over two decades in the making. We hope that this forum offers our readers an opportunity to reflect upon Cremin's contributions. We are very grateful to Robert L. Church of Michigan State University, Michael B. Katz of the University of Pennsylvania, Harold Silver of Oxford, England, and, of course, Professor Cremin himself for graciously participating in this lively exchange of ideas.
Public high schools in Australia rose on the waves of economic expansion during the first and the second halves of the twentieth century. The earliest establishments, including the ill-fated few that were founded in New South Wales under the Public Instruction Act of 1880, shared some of the features of the American high school as established in Massachusetts in 1827. Open to all children who had successfully completed elementary school, they were intended to play a broad role by offering both vocational and academic or university-preparatory courses. But they were not free; they were administered by the state, rather than by a local authority; and there were very large regional differences in provision. Moreover, it was not long before they shed their “comprehensive” or multi-sided character and focused on academic training.
In May 1930, at the peak of his public campaign to discredit federal Indian policy, John Collier charged that widespread brutality existed at government boarding schools. As executive secretary of the American Indian Defense Association, Collier persuaded the U.S. Senate to investigate charges of flogging and other forms of excessive punishment. At the center of the controversy stood the Phoenix Indian School, its administration accused of crass brutality, whippings, beatings, and even death—a prime example of what seemed to be wrong with federal Indian policy in the United States. As sensational as this case became for a brief time in 1930, it was primarily a politically staged event that Collier sought to use to his own advantage in bringing down the current administration of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. An examination of this incident reveals the nature of Collier's feud with old guard government employees and how the inflammatory issue of corporal punishment became a key tool in discrediting government Indian schools. The 1930 controversy over flogging provides an excellent case study in the dynamics of the Collier-led reform movement's challenge to the old order.
Commenting primarily on American and German educational historiography, Konrad H. Jarausch lamented that the “initial excitement” of the “new history of education” had abated and that education was no longer in the forefront of discussion in social or cultural history. Was this perception based upon an assumed coherence of the various trends which he described? Characteristic of the “new history,” according to Jarausch, had been, first, a radical criticism of the prevailing Whig tradition; secondly, a shift of focus from pedagogical ideas to social context; and thirdly, the adoption of social scientific techniques and quantification. All three features have contributed significantly to the development of research in British educational history, yet it would be artificial to postulate a unitary movement. Rather, various trends are visible, which reflect the institutional infrastructure within which history of education is produced in Britain. Changing priorities in and approaches to research in the history of education cannot be understood apart from the ties between the study of educational history and the institutional and research environments in which British historians and educationists work, as well as the wider context of contemporary educational politics.
Although sixty years have passed since its original publication in 1929, Thomas Woody's monumental two-volume treatise A History of Women's Education in the United States remains the authoritative, indeed the only, comprehensive survey of the history of women's education in the United States. Women's lives have changed greatly since the appearance of this now-classic study. Moreover, recent decades have seen an explosion of scholarship in women's history and the history of education, inspired by the social ferment of the 1960s, including feminism, and the methodologies and interests of the new social history. This essay will reappraise Woody's treatise in relation both to its own times, the 1920s, and to the events and scholarship of the intervening years. After providing background information about Woody and his study, it will ask in what ways A History of Women's Education in the United States remains useful to scholars today and in what ways it should be supplemented or revised.
The publication of Roy Shuker's The One Best System? has stimulated debate concerning “revisionist” interpretations of the history of New Zealand schools. The essays below help to introduce our readers to these controversies, which concern both methodological and ideological issues in the study of history of education. Three prominent historians offer their criticisms of this important volume, and Shuker provides a detailed response and reflection upon current scholarship in New Zealand. N. D. Daglish is a member of the Education Department, Victoria University of Wellington; Gary McCulloch is senior lecturer in Education, University of Auckland; Pavla Miller is a member of the Department of Sociology and Politics, Phillip Institute of Technology, Bundoora, Victoria; and Roy Shuker teaches at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand, in the Department of Education.