THE essays in this collection were written during the past decade. Some of them represent fragments of work that later became part of a book; as such, they permitted me to think out loud about a problem that later -- in the book -- shrunk to only a few paragraphs or a sentence. Some of them overlap because they are different attempts to think through similar questions, such as the three essays on curriculum history and the four essays on the issue of race and education. All of them owe a great deal to the many people who heard me out as I was trying to think through some issue that intrigued me. As ever, my husband, Richard, was patient, supportive, and understanding. My friends endured more than one would normally expect of good friends: they kept listening. For their friendship and colleagueship, I want to express my deep appreciation to Chester Finn, Jr., Rita Kramer, Abigail Thernstrom, Patricia Graham, and Michael Timpane. I owe special thanks to Mary F. Butz, who taught me to see many of the things I care about from the teacher's perspective. In this work, as in everything else I have written, I continue to be in the debt of Lawrence A. Cremin, who indelibly influenced my understanding of American education. I am grateful to Martin Kessler of Basic Books, who saw this volume through to completion. The book is lovingly dedicated to my wonderful, handsome, witty, intelligent sons, Joseph and Michael, without whom none of this would be worthwhile.