Many Americans view today's problems in education as an unprecedented crisis brought on by the rise of contemporary social problems. In Learning from the Past a group of distinguished educational historians and scholars of public policy reminds us that many current difficulties-as well as recent reform efforts-have important historical antecedents. What can we learn, they ask, from nineteenth-century efforts to promote early childhood education, or debates in the 1920s about universal secondary education, or the curriculum reforms of the 1950s? Reflecting a variety of intellectual and disciplinary orientations, the contributors to this volume examine major changes in educational development and reform, consider how such changes have been implemented in the past, and warn against , exaggerating their benefits. They address questions of governance, equity and multiculturalism, curriculum standards, school choice, and a variety of other issues. Policy makers and other school reformers, they conclude, would do well to investigate the past in order to appreciate the implications of the present reform initiatives.
Diane Ravitch is Research Professor in the School of Education at New York University and holds the Herman and George R. Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institution. She was an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education, and she serves on the National Assessment Governing Board. Her publications include Learning from the Past: What History Teaches Us about School Reform and City Schools: Lessons from New York (both available from Johns Hopkins), The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945-1980, and Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms (forthcoming).