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The writings in this collection on American educational thought represent the many stories, individuals, and ideas that have shaped American education during the past several centuries. This book should serve as a useful primary or supplementary text for any undergraduate or graduate course in the history of American education, American educational thought, social foundations of education, philosophy of education, or curriculum theory. The editors of this volume hope that readers of this book will come to understand, and perhaps develop a desire to participate in, the "great conversation" that is American educational thought.
Readers learn first-hand from the leaders of various movements and intellectual traditions within American education. A significant feature of this collection is the diversity of ideas contained within each era. The readings cover a time frame that begins in the late 17th century and ends in the early 20th century. Readers will be able to compare and contrast the thought of Puritans such as Cotton Mather with Quakers such as William Penn. Later, early American leaders---for example Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Benjamin Rush---provide somewhat different visions of education in the new American republic. The common school movement of Horace Mann is well known, but few people are familiar with the response of Catholics and others to the mid-19th century supporters of "nonsectarian" public education. Throughout the text, readers encounter the primary source voices of men and women who argue, for example, in favor of increased attention to the educational needs of girls. Moreover, the fin de siecle debate regarding the best educational reforms for African Americans is captured in the writings of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. The influence of modern psychology on American educational thought is evident in the ideas expressed by G. Stanley Hall, William James, and E.L. Thorndike. Finally, the challenges of the modern era in general and democratic education in particular are expressed powerfully by diverse voices such as Catharine Beecher, Francis W. Parker, William Torrey Harris, Jane Addams, John Dewey, George Counts, and William C. Bagley. To be sure, the echoes of voices from all of these thinkers can be found in virtually all discussions of American education today.
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