Lives in Education tells the story of Western education through biographies of individuals--some whose lives represent significant contributions to educational theory and practice, and some whose lives exemplify education typical of their time and place in history. These individuals' lives, work, and ideas illustrate the dynamic synergy between theory and practice in education. Lives in Education emphasizes Western and American educational developments, and includes extensive treatments of the contributions of women and representatives of other historically underacknowledged groups.
Our decision to use biography to examine educational issues in the context of their evolution evolved naturally from what our experience as educators has shown us: "Biography turns what might otherwise be lists of meaningless historical names into an endless stream of friends--and students learn better from friends than from anyone else." 1
Educators are not faceless, interchangeable machines. Individuals work, plan, try, aspire, confront, succeed, fail, hurt, rejoice. "Biography reveals life to be a series of often difficult choices, but also demonstrates that adversity is only part of life, not its end," observes political scientist Scott Kirkman. 2 Historian Charles F. Mullett comments: "Historical labels, like last week's slogans, serve their term and are replaced by others equally mortal. . . . It is the living individual who captures the imagination. . . . Queen Mary did not burn Protestantism at the stake, she burnt Hugh Latimer. If history becomes anonymous it becomes inevitable, and the individual is cast out with yesterday's refuse." 3
So, Lives in Education is built around biographical themes for a well-grounded reason: tying abstract ideas to biographies of educators gives readers organizing anchors as aids to memory and understanding. Integrating figures and ideas (e.g., Socrates, Luther) with less-well-known theories and people (e.g., Sappho, Melanchthon) provides security in processing new information. Biography is interesting, and therefore easy for readers to assimilate and remember.