The School in the United States : A Documentary History book cover
4th Edition

The School in the United States
A Documentary History

Edited By

James W. Fraser

ISBN 9781138478879
Published March 29, 2019 by Routledge
412 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The School in the United States collects a wide range of essential primary documents of the history of education in the United States, from colonial America to present-day reform efforts. Expertly chosen by historian and education scholar James Fraser, these documents incorporate many different sources, from first-person accounts to textbook excerpts and presidential speeches. As Fraser demonstrates, the history of American education is also a history of national debates and decisions about schooling, and he places the prominent voices of these debates in conversation through carefully curated selections, including the work of famous thinkers like Thomas Jefferson and W. E. B. DuBois, as well as that of ordinary classroom teachers.

Organized by era, each chapter begins with a brief introduction intended to spark student interest, while a detailed bibliography suggests opportunities for further research. In addition, the fourth edition also offers an alternative structure that allows easy use of the book by topic as an alternative to chronology. Comprehensive enough to be used as a main text, but selective enough to be used alongside another, The School in the United States makes accessible key readings in the history of American education in a format that encourages students to make their own evaluations as they engage with major historical debates.

Updates to this fourth edition include:

  • New documents throughout including additional teacher voices and a focus on technology.
  • The last two chapters have been extensively revised to include material on school shootings, debates about charter schools, teacher strikes, and the purposes of public education in the United States.
  • A number of older documents have been shortened to point students more clearly to the most important ideas of a document. Overall the fourth edition is shorter than previous editions.
  • Online resources that include a full Instructor’s Manual and sample syllabi.

Table of Contents

Organised Chronologically:

1.  The School in Colonial America, 1620—1770

2. The American Revolution and Schools for the New Republic, 1770—1820

3. The Common School Movement, 1820—1860

4. Schooling Moves West, 1835—1860

5. Slavery, Reconstruction, and the Schools of the South, 1820—1937

6. The Emergence of the High School, 1821—1959

7. Growth and Diversity in Schools and Students, 1880—1960

8. The Progressive Era, 1890―1950

9. Schools in the Cold War Era, 1950—1970

10. Civil Rights, Integration, and School Reform, 1954—1980

11.Rights, Opportunities and Limits in American Education, 1965—1980

12.Reform Efforts of the 1980s and 1990s and the New Century, 1980—2005

13.Curriculum, Technology, and New Tensions, 2005—2018

Organised Thematically:

How Had the Job of Teaching Changed Over Time and How Have Teachers Helped Change It?

How is Technology Changing Schools? For Better? For Worse?

Who Pays for Schools? Who Decides What to Do with the Money?

Are Schools Fair? What Should Fairness in Schooling Look Like?

A Broadening Quest for Rights and Opportunities in American Education.

School Violence, School Choice, Teacher Unions, Liberal and Conservative Views of Fairness.

What Gets Taught? What Should Get Taught? Hidden and Overt Curriculum?

What Is the Purpose of Public Schools? How Has the Purpose Changed Over Time?

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James W. Fraser is Professor of History and Education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, USA. He was the 2012–2014 President of the History of Education Society.


“This is my favorite book that I use with my students. It allows me a lot of creativity in planning the course curriculum and I like that students can learn from the primary sources without me having to search for all of the documents.”

—Josephine Tabet Sarvis, PhD, Dominican University

"James Fraser provides an excellent comprehensive collection of primary sources that provide the student with an opportunity for reflecting, constructing meaning, and establishing relationships with the past through the ideas and experiences of thsoe who lived it and helped form American education as we know it."

—Sam F. Stack Jr., Professor, Social and Cultural Foundations, West Virginia University

"Fraser has most certainly achieved his goal of providing students ‘with a way to immerse themselves in some of the major debates that have consumed educators over the decades.’ His book enables students to become historians."

—Christine A. Ogren, Associate Professor, Educational Policy and Leadership Studies, the University of Iowa