The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945-1980

The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945-1980

The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945-1980

The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945-1980

Synopsis

This widely praised history of the controversies that have beset American schools and universities since World War II is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the condition of American education today.

In 1786, Thomas Jefferson, at that time the American minister to the French government, wrote his friend and adviser George Wythe in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was delighted that the Virginia legislature had finally agreed to enact the statute for religious freedom that he had proposed some seven years earlier. However, he wrote Wythe, the most important bill before the state legislature, which had still not passed, was that "for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom, and happiness." For Jefferson, any doubt of this was removed by what he had seen of the common people of France, who were surrounded by "blessings from nature" and yet miserable because they remained in the grip of "ignorance, superstition, poverty and oppression of body and mind in every form." Jefferson exhorted his friend, "Preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish and improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils, and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance."

This book is a report on the state of the crusade against ignorance during a particularly tumultuous time in American history. Many other crusades stormed through the nation's educational institutions during these thirty-five years, sometimes complementing the crusade against ignorance, at other times subordinating it to some other worthy or unworthy cause. More than at any other time in American history, the crusade against ignorance was understood to mean a crusade for equal educational opportunity. At every level of formal education, from nursery school to graduate school, equal opportunity became the overriding goal of postwar educational reformers. Sometimes those who led the battles seemed to forget why it was important to keep students in school longer; to forget that the fight for higher enrollments was part of a crusade against igno-

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