An Enduring Puzzle about Teaching in the U.S. (Part 1)

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Historians of education often pose puzzling questions about the past. Sure, some historians answer narrow but important questions such as: How and why did Head Start become a national early childhood program in the mid-1960s? Or why did platoon schools spread across the U.S. before World War I?

Answering these questions are not the journalistic five Ws: Who, What, Where, When, and Why. No, such questions as: why the standards, testing, and accountability movement to reform schools surged in the 1980s?–require revealing the context of the locale and the times and by documenting both changes that occurred and continuity of ongoing patterns of schooling.

In my career as a historian of education, I have delved into, skittered around, and tap-danced my way through various answers to questions about policymakers trying again and again to alter what teachers do in their lessons, how teachers changed their teaching over time, the continuity…

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