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The American School Summary

The American School: From the Puritans to the Trump Era by Joel Spring (Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, USA)

This current, comprehensive history of American education is designed to stimulate critical analysis and critical thinking by offering alternative interpretations of each historical period. In his signature straight-forward, concise style, Joel Spring provides a variety of interpretations of American schooling, from conservative to leftist, in order to spark the reader's own critical thinking about history and schools. This tenth edition follows the history of American education from the seventeenth century to the integration into global capitalism of the twenty-first century to the tumultuous current political landscape. In particular, the updates focus on tracing the direct religious links between the colonial Puritans and the current-day Trump administration.

  • Chapters 1 and 2 have been rewritten to take a closer look at religious traditions in American schools, leading up to the educational ideas of the current U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
  • An updated Chapter 15 further links traditional religious fundamentalist ideas and the twentieth century free market arguments of the Chicago school of economists to President Trump's administration and the influence of the Alt-Right.

The American School Reviews

'Joel Spring's The American School points up the fact that, historically, schools have been used as means to gain ideological control over perspective and as means to empower and liberate, both wrapped in democratic shibboleths of "freedom," "equality," and "justice." Furthermore, Spring gives body to the idea that public schooling in the United States is an inherently political undertaking shaped by the various struggles over what democratic justice should mean and how this meaning should be cultivated in the characters who will be entrusted with its realization and direction.'

-Randy Hewitt, Associate Professor of Philosophy of Education at the University of Central Florida.

About Joel Spring (Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, USA)

Joel Spring is a professor at Queens College/City University of New York and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, USA.

Table of Contents


List of Time Lines

About the Author


1 Thinking Critically about History

Interpreting School History: From the Right to the Left

Purposes of Educational History and Its Effect on Public Images and Emotions Regarding Schools

Themes in American Educational History

Globalization Framework

Religious Debates in U.S. Schools from the Colonial Era to the Present

Schools and the Culture Wars

Schools as Managers of Public Thought

Racial and Ethnic Conflict as a Theme in School History

The Role in Educational History of Equality of Opportunity and Human Capital

Globalization: Consumer and Environmental Education

2 Globalization and Religion in Colonial Education

Education and Culture in Colonial Society

The Role of Education in Colonial Society

Historical Interpretations of Colonial Education

Authority and Social Status in Colonial Education

Colonialism and Educational Policy

Language and Cultural Conflict

Native Americans: Education as Cultural Imperialism

Enslaved Africans: Atlantic Creoles

Enslaved Africans: The Plantation System

The Idea of Secular Education: Freedom of Thought and the Establishment of Academies

Benjamin Franklin and Education as Social Mobility

The Family and the Child


3 Nationalism, Multiculturalism, and Moral Reform in the New Republic

World Culture Theorists

The Problem of Cultural Diversity

Religion and Liberty

Noah Webster: Nationalism and the Creation of a Dominant Culture

Thomas Jefferson: A Natural Aristocracy

Moral Reform and Faculty Psychology

Concepts of Childhood: Protected, Working, Poor, Rural, and Enslaved

Charity Schools, the Lancasterian System, and Prisons

Institutional Change and the American College

Public versus Private Schools

Conclusion: Continuing Issues in American Education

4 The Ideology and Politics of the Common School

Three Distinctive Features of the Common School Movement

The Ideology of the Common School Movement

Workingmen and the Struggle for a Republican Education

How Much Government Involvement in Schools? The Whigs and the Democrats

The Birth of the High School

The Continuing Debate about the Common School Ideal


5 The Common School and the Threat of Cultural Pluralism

The Increasing Multicultural Population of the United States

Irish Catholics: A Threat to Anglo-American Schools and Culture

Slavery and Freedom in the North: African Americans and Schools in the New Republic

Native Americans


6 Organizing the American School: Teachers and Bureaucracy

The American Teacher

Revolution in Teaching Methods: Object Learning

The Evolution of Bureaucracy: A Global Model

The Age-Graded Classroom

McGuffey's Readers and the Spirit of Capitalism


7 Multiculturalism and the Failure of the Common School Ideal

Mexican Americans: Race and Citizenship

Asian Americans: Exclusion and Segregation

Native American Citizenship

Educational Racism and Deculturalization

Citizenship for African Americans

Issues Regarding Puerto Rican Citizenship

Puerto Rican American Educational Issues

Conclusion: Setting the Stage for the Great Civil Rights Movement

8 Global Migration and the Growth of the Welfare Function of Schools

Immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe

The Kindergarten Movement

Home Economics: Education of the New Consumer Woman

School Cafeterias, the American Cuisine, and Processed Foods

The Play Movement

Summer School

Social Centers

The New Culture Wars

Resisting Segregation: African Americans

The Second Crusade for Black Education

Resisting Segregation: Mexican Americans

Native American Boarding Schools

Resisting Discrimination: Asian Americans

Educational Resistance in Puerto Rico

Conclusion: Public Schooling as America's Welfare Institution

9 Human Capital: High School, Junior High School, and Vocational Guidance and Education

The High School

Vocational Education

Junior High School

Adapting the Classroom to the Workplace: Lesson Plans

Adapting the Classroom to the Workplace: Progressivism

Adapting the Classroom to the Workplace: Stimulus-Response

Classroom Management as Preparation for Factory Life

Historical Interpretations: Public Benefit or Corporate Greed?

Conclusion: The Meaning of Equality of Opportunity

10 Scientific School Management: Testing, Immigrants, and Experts

Scientifically Managed Schools: Meritocracy and Reducing Public Control

Professionalizing Educational Administration

Measurement, Democracy, and the Superiority of Anglo-Americans

Closing the Door to Immigrants: The 1924 Immigration Act

"Backward" Children and Special Classrooms

Eugenics and the Age of Sterilization

The University and Meritocracy


11 The Politics of Knowledge: Teachers' Unions, the American Legion, and the American Way

Teachers versus Administrators: The American Federation of Teachers

The Rise of the National Education Association

The Political Changes of the Depression Years

The Politics of Ideological Management: The American Legion

Textbook Censorship and the Teaching of Evolution

Selling the "American Way" in Schools and on Billboards

Propaganda and Free Speech in the Schools

Rugg and Advertising


12 Schools, Media, and Popular Culture: Influencing the Minds of Children and Teenagers

Censorship of Movies as a Form of Public Education

Educators and the Movies

The Production Code: Movies as Educators

Should Commercial Radio or Educators Determine National Culture?

Creating the Superhero for Children's Radio

Controlling the Influence of Comic Books

Educating Children as Consumers

The Creation of Teenage Markets

Children and Youth from the 1950s to the Twenty-First Century


13 American Schools and Global Politics: The Cold War and Poverty

Youth Unemployment: Universal Military Service and the GI Bill

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the Educational Testing Service

The Cold War and Purging the Schools of Communists

American Schools: Weakest Link to Global Victory?

Global Imperatives: The National Defense Education Act

Schools and the War on Poverty

Sesame Street and Educational Television


14 The Fruits of Globalization: Civil Rights, Global Migration, and Multicultural Education

Ending School Segregation of National Minorities

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Native Americans and Indigenous Educational Rights

Asian Americans: Educating the "Model Minority"

Hispanic/Latino Americans

Bilingual Education: The Culture Wars Continued

The Immigration Act of 1965 and the New American Population

Multicultural Education and the Culture Wars

Schools and the International Women's Movement

Children with Special Needs

The Coloring of Textbook Town

Liberating the Textbook Town Housewife for More Consumption

Conclusion: The Cold War and Civil Rights

15 Globalization, Religion, Free Markets, and Human Capital: From Nixon to Trump

Free Markets and Human Capital: School Choice and the Role of Schools in Economic Growth and Ending Poverty

School Prayer and Bible Reading

Christian Coalition, School Prayer and School Choice

Christian Coalition: Religious Politics

No Child Left Behind, Testing and School Prayer

No Child Left Behind And Religious Conservatives

The End of The Common School: Choice, Privatization, and Charter Schools

Trump Administration: Free Markets, Choice, and Privatization

Educating for the Consumer Economy

Global Crisis and the Demise of Environmental Education

Conclusion: From Horace Mann To Donald Trump

Additional information

The American School: From the Puritans to the Trump Era by Joel Spring (Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, USA)
Taylor & Francis Ltd
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