Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Touting schools as crucial to the nation’s economic productivity and growth dates back to the 1840s. School reformer Horace Mann published data then showing educated workers (with a few years of elementary school) were better in their jobs than those with no schooling.

A half-century later, industrialists deeply concerned about competing globally with British and German products, mobilized educators and voters to see schools as places for producing skilled workers. Political coalitions promoted vocational preparation as a goal for public schooling.

And since the 1970s, a steady drum-roll of reports, lobbying groups, and legislation has focused on K-12 schools and higher education as batteries for recharging a sluggish economy to compete in the global marketplace. Contemporary reformers would applaud a group of Boston businessmen who said in 1845  that:

…[I]ndustry is served and the wealth of the country is augmented in proportion to the diffusion of knowledge, so that each…

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