The American School : From the Puritans to the Trump Era book cover
10th Edition

The American School
From the Puritans to the Trump Era

ISBN 9781138502925
Published February 26, 2018 by Routledge
538 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This current, comprehensive history of American education is designed to stimulate critical analysis and critical thinking by offering alternative interpretations of each historical period. In his signature straight-forward, concise style, Joel Spring provides a variety of interpretations of American schooling, from conservative to leftist, in order to spark the reader’s own critical thinking about history and schools. This tenth edition follows the history of American education from the seventeenth century to the integration into global capitalism of the twenty-first century to the tumultuous current political landscape. In particular, the updates focus on tracing the direct religious links between the colonial Puritans and the current-day Trump administration.

  • Chapters 1 and 2 have been rewritten to take a closer look at religious traditions in American schools, leading up to the educational ideas of the current U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
  • An updated Chapter 15 further links traditional religious fundamentalist ideas and the twentieth century free market arguments of the Chicago school of economists to President Trump’s administration and the influence of the Alt-Right.

Table of Contents


List of Time Lines

About the Author  


 1 Thinking Critically about History  

Interpreting School History: From the Right to the Left  

Purposes of Educational History and Its Effect on Public Images and Emotions Regarding Schools  

Themes in American Educational History  

Globalization Framework

Religious Debates in U.S. Schools from the Colonial Era to the Present

Schools and the Culture Wars

Schools as Managers of Public Thought

Racial and Ethnic Conflict as a Theme in School History  

The Role in Educational History of Equality of Opportunity and Human Capital  

Globalization: Consumer and Environmental Education  

 2 Globalization and Religion in Colonial Education  

Education and Culture in Colonial Society  

The Role of Education in Colonial Society  

Historical Interpretations of Colonial Education  

Authority and Social Status in Colonial Education  

Colonialism and Educational Policy  

Language and Cultural Conflict  

Native Americans: Education as Cultural Imperialism  

Enslaved Africans: Atlantic Creoles  

Enslaved Africans: The Plantation System  

The Idea of Secular Education: Freedom of Thought and the Establishment of Academies  

Benjamin Franklin and Education as Social Mobility  

The Family and the Child  


 3 Nationalism, Multiculturalism, and Moral Reform in the New Republic  

World Culture Theorists  

The Problem of Cultural Diversity  

Religion and Liberty

Noah Webster: Nationalism and the Creation of a Dominant Culture 

Thomas Jefferson: A Natural Aristocracy  

Moral Reform and Faculty Psychology  

Concepts of Childhood: Protected, Working, Poor, Rural, and Enslaved 

Charity Schools, the Lancasterian System, and Prisons  

Institutional Change and the American College  

Public versus Private Schools  

Conclusion: Continuing Issues in American Education  

 4 The Ideology and Politics of the Common School  

Three Distinctive Features of the Common School Movement  

The Ideology of the Common School Movement

Workingmen and the Struggle for a Republican Education  

How Much Government Involvement in Schools? The Whigs and the Democrats  

The Birth of the High School  

The Continuing Debate about the Common School Ideal  


 5 The Common School and the Threat of Cultural Pluralism  

The Increasing Multicultural Population of the United States 

Irish Catholics: A Threat to Anglo-American Schools and Culture  

Slavery and Freedom in the North: African Americans and Schools in the New Republic  

Native Americans  


 6 Organizing the American School: Teachers and Bureaucracy  

The American Teacher  

Revolution in Teaching Methods: Object Learning  

The Evolution of Bureaucracy: A Global Model  

The Age-Graded Classroom  

McGuffey’s Readers and the Spirit of Capitalism  


 7 Multiculturalism and the Failure of the Common School Ideal  

Mexican Americans: Race and Citizenship  

Asian Americans: Exclusion and Segregation  

Native American Citizenship  

Educational Racism and Deculturalization 

Citizenship for African Americans  

Issues Regarding Puerto Rican Citizenship  

Puerto Rican American Educational Issues

Conclusion: Setting the Stage for the Great Civil Rights Movement 

 8 Global Migration and the Growth of the Welfare Function of Schools  

Immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe  

The Kindergarten Movement  

Home Economics: Education of the New Consumer Woman  

School Cafeterias, the American Cuisine, and Processed Foods  

The Play Movement  

Summer School  

Social Centers  

The New Culture Wars  

Resisting Segregation: African Americans 

The Second Crusade for Black Education 

Resisting Segregation: Mexican Americans 

Native American Boarding Schools  

Resisting Discrimination: Asian Americans  

Educational Resistance in Puerto Rico  

Conclusion: Public Schooling as America’s Welfare Institution  

 9 Human Capital: High School, Junior High School, and Vocational Guidance and Education  

The High School 

Vocational Education 

Junior High School  

Adapting the Classroom to the Workplace: Lesson Plans 

Adapting the Classroom to the Workplace: Progressivism  

Adapting the Classroom to the Workplace: Stimulus–Response  

Classroom Management as Preparation for Factory Life  

Historical Interpretations: Public Benefit or Corporate Greed?  

Conclusion: The Meaning of Equality of Opportunity 

10 Scientific School Management: Testing, Immigrants, and Experts  

Scientifically Managed Schools: Meritocracy and Reducing Public Control  

Professionalizing Educational Administration  

Measurement, Democracy, and the Superiority of Anglo-Americans  

Closing the Door to Immigrants: The 1924 Immigration Act  

"Backward" Children and Special Classrooms  

Eugenics and the Age of Sterilization  

The University and Meritocracy  


11 The Politics of Knowledge: Teachers’ Unions, the American Legion, and the American Way  

Teachers versus Administrators: The American Federation of Teachers  

The Rise of the National Education Association  

The Political Changes of the Depression Years  

The Politics of Ideological Management: The American Legion

Textbook Censorship and the Teaching of Evolution   

Selling the "American Way" in Schools and on Billboards

Propaganda and Free Speech in the Schools

Rugg and Advertising  


12 Schools, Media, and Popular Culture: Influencing the Minds of Children and Teenagers  

Censorship of Movies as a Form of Public Education  

Educators and the Movies  

The Production Code: Movies as Educators  

Should Commercial Radio or Educators Determine National Culture?  

Creating the Superhero for Children’s Radio  

Controlling the Influence of Comic Books  

Educating Children as Consumers  

The Creation of Teenage Markets  

Children and Youth from the 1950s to the Twenty-First Century  


13 American Schools and Global Politics: The Cold War and Poverty  

Youth Unemployment: Universal Military Service and the GI Bill  

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the Educational Testing Service  

The Cold War and Purging the Schools of Communists  

American Schools: Weakest Link to Global Victory?  

Global Imperatives: The National Defense Education Act  

Schools and the War on Poverty  

Sesame Street and Educational Television  


14 The Fruits of Globalization: Civil Rights, Global Migration, and Multicultural Education

Ending School Segregation of National Minorities  

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

Native Americans and Indigenous Educational Rights  

Asian Americans: Educating the "Model Minority"  

Hispanic/Latino Americans  

Bilingual Education: The Culture Wars Continued  

The Immigration Act of 1965 and the New American Population  

Multicultural Education and the Culture Wars 

Schools and the International Women’s Movement  

Children with Special Needs  

The Coloring of Textbook Town  

Liberating the Textbook Town Housewife for More Consumption  

Conclusion: The Cold War and Civil Rights  

15 Globalization, Religion, Free Markets, and Human Capital: From Nixon to Trump

Free Markets and Human Capital: School Choice and the Role of Schools in Economic Growth and Ending Poverty

School Prayer and Bible Reading

Christian Coalition, School Prayer and School Choice

Christian Coalition: Religious Politics

No Child Left Behind, Testing and School Prayer

No Child Left Behind And Religious Conservatives

The End of The Common School: Choice, Privatization, and Charter Schools

Trump Administration: Free Markets, Choice, and Privatization

Educating for the Consumer Economy

Global Crisis and the Demise of Environmental Education

Conclusion: From Horace Mann To Donald Trump

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Joel Spring is a professor at Queens College/City University of New York and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, USA.


'Joel Spring’s The American School points up the fact that, historically, schools have been used as means to gain ideological control over perspective and as means to empower and liberate, both wrapped in democratic shibboleths of “freedom,” “equality,” and “justice.” Furthermore, Spring gives body to the idea that public schooling in the United States is an inherently political undertaking shaped by the various struggles over what democratic justice should mean and how this meaning should be cultivated in the characters who will be entrusted with its realization and direction.'

—Randy Hewitt, Associate Professor of Philosophy of Education at the University of Central Florida.