Educating America: How Ralph W. Tyler Taught America to Teach

Educating America: How Ralph W. Tyler Taught America to Teach

Educating America: How Ralph W. Tyler Taught America to Teach

Educating America: How Ralph W. Tyler Taught America to Teach

Synopsis

The first book to chart the career of Ralplh W. Tyler, who founded the a nation's report card: the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Excerpt

[I think I may say, that of all the men we meet with, nine parts out of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education,] wrote John Locke in a 1693 treatise on the subject. Four centuries later, Locke's belief in the paramount importance of education is widespread, even if we find ourselves a little less confident than he was about its basic principles, and a great deal less sanguine about its transformative powers. One reason that the educational system is such a battleground is that it has, in no small part, been entrusted with the very reproduction of our society. The question of what we want our schools to do has become bound up with another question: What sort of people do we want our children to be? Aims such as these are open to dispute—and in the realm of education, whatever can be disputed will be disputed.

This is why the Enlightenment dream of an entirely instrumental conception of pedagogy has proven so alluring, and so elusive. The dream, we might say, is of a Consumer Reports model of evaluation: Does this washing machine or that microwave do what it is supposed to do? Asking and answering such questions is a wonderfully straightforward business; to know what such machines are is to know what such machines are for. By contrast, a school is not a machine built with some purely instrumental purpose; an instructor's particular aims are never pregiven, fixed, and beyond revision. If you teach, and if you take your teaching seriously, you have to reflect not just upon what you are teaching but upon what you hope to achieve by doing so. That means attending not only to the what but to the why.

Ralph W. Tyler (1902-94) became one of the most important figures in twentieth-century education by pursuing the logic of this seemingly . . .

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