Where Do the Ideas of “Success” and “Failure” in Schooling Come From? (Part 4)

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

In the first three parts of this series, I answered the question of where “success” and “failure” as ideas came from. I identified and described three core values–individualism, equal opportunity, and community–that are inherent to the American character as far back as colonial times. Part 3 and this final section describe how those values are spread through distinctive American institution such as advertising and sports. This part deal with schools as a public vehicle for communicating and inculcating these values.


Establishing public schools to instill highly prized values in the young is a political decision. For centuries, newly formed nations concerned about replicating themselves have decided again and again to build patriotic, literate citizens who could protect the country against internal and external enemies (e.g., France, Britain, and the U.S in the 19th century, Soviet Union, China, Cuba in the 20thcentury).

Over two centuries ago, first…

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