As the United States enters the last few years of the twentieth century, it does so acknowledging that the educational system that sustained its social, economic, scientific, and democratic aspirations faces serious problems. In fact, for more than a decade, Americans have conceded that the country's public schools were in a state of decline. Government reports are not often widely read and discussed, but when the National Commission on Excellence in Education published A Nation at Risk in 1983, people quickly grasped its implications. The postwar advances in education, particularly those following Sputnik, seemingly had disappeared, leaving the country with an educational system best characterized as mediocre. Other problems were evident, too, comprising a litany that included school violence, drugs, lack of interest in formal education, rising illiteracy, and diminished involvement by parents. In response, some parents enrolled their children in parochial schools; others experimented with home schooling or opted for the curriculum of charter schools.
Dickson A. Mungazi, Regents Professor in Northern Arizona University's Center for Excellence in Education, does not dispute the condition of education in America. He suggests, though, that Americans ought to look back on the historical development of educational theory as the foundation on which to build the development of a new set of ideas to meet today's educational and social challenges and to guide the country into the next century. Although his Evolution of Educational Theory in the United States acknowledges European antecedents as important background to the evolution of educational theory in the United States, beginning with ancient Greek masters and continuing on through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment, its focus is on the American experience. New England's