Schools in Cities: Consensus and Conflict in American Educational History

Schools in Cities: Consensus and Conflict in American Educational History

Schools in Cities: Consensus and Conflict in American Educational History

Schools in Cities: Consensus and Conflict in American Educational History

Excerpt

The present collection of essays was drawn from a conference on community studies in the history of education held at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York in 1980. The conference--and the papers that resulted from it--contained some instructive lessons about the state of historical research in urban education. Of the forty or so historians who met, something close to a consensus emerged on the disproportion between, on the one hand, needs and opportunities for further study and, on the other hand, a well-formed body of historical scholarship. The scholar who is interested in the history of urban education in the 1980s is like an explorer approaching a continent that was mapped and surveyed years ago by people who used primitive tools, asked the wrong questions, or made a tourist guide rather than an accurate chart. During the late 1960s, when there was great public interest in the problems of urban education, policymakers had relatively little historical research to draw on. In many cities, no one had ever attempted to write a history of education, either of schools or of any of the informal educating agencies; in other cities, there were institutional histories recounting names and dates and laws. It was rare indeed that a scholar or a government official could determine from the historical record how and why existing institutions came to be, what functions they had performed, how and why they had changed, whom they had served, and whom they had failed to serve.

In the past fifteen or so years, as awareness of these lacunae has grown, historians have been drawn to these unanswered questions. And still, there seem to be more questions than answers; indeed, more lacunae than . . .

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