How would you like to be remembered? -David Tyack, Historian of American education.

I came across educational historian David Tyack’s book Tinkering Toward Utopia (1995) almost by accident on the sale rack of a college bookstore, but only a few pages in, I began to devour it. As an elementary classroom teacher, I was immediately aware of a shift in analytical perspective: for once the role of the teacher was central to the historical analysis of our educational system. Tyack’s work starts with The One Best System (1974), analyzing the “organizational revolution that took place in American school during the last century” (1870-1970), where schools moved from individual village schools to a unified urban context. This analysis is a massive undertaking, but Tyack has a steady hand and a searching mind. Though Tinkering Toward Utopia (1995) comes decades later, it is, for me, the best, containing analysis of the history of 100 years of school reform efforts in America, succinctly and devastatingly presented.

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