Book Reviews -- Liberal Journalism and American Education, 1914-1941 by James M. Wallace

Article excerpt

Be warned: read the title of this book carefully. This is not a book about journalism education or the education of American journalists. It is a history of the coverage or, better, a commentary on American education in the pages of two liberal journals of opinion, The Nation and The New Republic, from 1914 to 1941. It attempts to answer this question: What did liberal journalists have to say about education or how did progressivism in education fit into larger political, social and intellectual events as part of the ideology of liberal journalists?

Thus, the book is part of the attempt to reassess progressivism as it evolved from its high point in 1914 with the founding of The New Republic through its eclipse during the jazz age and its rebirth as a more radical ideology during its popular front phase in the Depression. As such, it is a contribution to our understanding of progressivism, to our knowledge of how one element within American journalism in this century viewed education and to the role that Left politics assigned to education in an attempt at social reconstruction.

The book underscores at least two things of which we have been aware. The first is the superficiality of coverage of education in the "established press," an argument frequently made by the late Richard Gray. The interest of liberal journalists in the actual process of education--of what happens in the classroom--and the substantive role of education in democracy reminds us of the incessant newspaper coverage of education that rarely goes beyond contract disputes, scandals, strikes, and the misbehavior of youth. …