"TO the casual observer, American education is a confusing and not altogether edifying spectacle. It is productive of endless fads and panaceas; it is pretentiously scientific and at the same time pathetically conventional; it is scornful of the past, yet painfully inarticulate when it speaks of the future." This strikingly contemporary observation was made by the educational philosopher Boyd Bode in the New Republic in 1930. Since then, American schools have lurched from crisis to crisis, and their internal confusion and aimlessness remain intact.
During the past half-century, the schools have been persistently battered by controversy and crisis, much of it growing out of efforts to redirect the purposes of the schools. In the 1930s, heated pedagogical battles between progressive educators and traditionalists were decided when the progressives secured dominance of the nation's teachers' colleges and professional educators' associations. In the postwar 1940s, the schools were handicapped by critical shortages of teachers and buildings, low teacher salaries, and the advent of the baby boom generation. In the early 1950s, the schools were attacked by a variety of critics--