Fear and Schooling: Understanding the Troubled History of Progressive Education (London: Routledge, 2020)

Fear&SchoolingBy exploring the tensions, impacts, and origins of major controversies relating to schooling and curricula since the early twentieth century, this insightful text illustrates how fear has played a key role in steering the development of progressive education in the United States.

Through rigorous historical investigation, Evans demonstrates how numerous public disputes over specific curricular content have been driven by broader societal hopes and fears. Illustrating how the population’s concerns have been historically projected onto American schooling, the text posits educational debate and controversy as a means by which we struggle over changing anxieties and competing visions of the future, and in doing so, limit influence of key progressive initiatives. Episodes examined include the Rugg textbook controversy, the 1950s “crisis” overs progressive education, the MACOS dispute, conservative restoration, culture war battles, and corporate school reform. In examining specific periods of intense controversy, and drawing on previously untapped archival sources, the author identifies patterns and discontinuities and explains the origins, development, and results of each case. Ultimately, this volume powerfully reveals the danger that fear-based controversies pose to hopes for democratic education.

This informative and insightful text will be of interest to graduate and postgraduate students, researchers, and academics in the fields of educational reform, history of education, curriculum studies and sociology of education.

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Constructivism and the New Social Studies: A Collection of Classic Inquiry Lessons (Charlotte, NC: Information Age, 2018)

Geoffrey Scheurman and Ronald Evans, Editors

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The New Social Studies refers to a flurry of academic and commercial activity during the 1960s and 1970s that resulted in the mass development and dissemination of revolutionary classroom materials and teacher resources. In science as well as social studies, a spirit of “inquiry-based teaching” filled the air during this time, resulting in the development of curricula that were both pedagogically innovative and intellectually rigorous. Constructivism and the New Social Studies contains a collection of classic lessons from some of the most successful projects of the era, providing a resource of exceptional ideas and materials that have stood the test of time.

These revealing artifacts are presented with commentaries from some of the original directors of major projects, including Edwin Fenton, Barry Beyer, and Suzanne Helburn. In addition to American and World History, groundbreaking lessons are represented in Economics, Government, Sociology, and Geography, including the Public Issues Series (Fred Newmann), The Amherst History Project (Richard Brown and Geoffrey Scheurman) and Teaching American History: The Quest for Relevancy (Allan Kownslar, Gerald Ponder, and Geneva Gay), and Man: A Course of Study (Peter Dow). With a Foreword by Jerome Bruner, the volume not only provides a resource of exceptional curriculum ideas and actual materials, it also builds a lucid bridge between the theoretical ideas of constructivism and the pedagogical principles of inquiry learning.

This Happened in America: Harold Rugg and the Censure of Social Studies (Charlotte, NC: Information Age, 2007)

This long awaited biography of Harold Rugg is a dramatic, compelling story with profound implications for today’s educators. Harold Rugg, one of the leading progressive educators of the 20th century, developed an innovative social studies program and textbook series that was censured by conservative critics during the 1940s. Get the full story behind Rugg, the man and the educator, and the critics who attacked him.

Harold O. Rugg was professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a key leader among the social frontier group that emerged in the 1930s to argue that schools should play a stronger role in helping to reconstruct society. He was author of a best selling social studies textbook series which came under attack from patriotic and business groups in the early years of World War II. The story of his rise and fall encapsulates a pivotal episode in the history of American education and reveals a great deal about the direction of schooling in American life, the many roads not taken, and possibilities for the future. This in-depth examination of Rugg’s life and career provides historical perspective on the recurring struggles over education. It will be of interest to every citizen concerned about the future of our democracy.

***Recipient of the 2008 Exemplary Research Award from the National Council for the Social Studies***

This Happened in America is an immensely engaging, thoroughly researched, and well-written intellectual biography of one of America’s leading progressive educators. Evans’ narrative of Rugg’s committed struggle to reconstruct the social studies curriculum into an interdisciplinary focus on major controversial issues contributes not only to the study of American education but captures the great ideological conflicts between conservatives and progressives in American democracy.
Evans’ book is a highly instructive examination of how schools contribute to forming future citizens’ perspectives of their social and political reality. It recounts how Rugg’s efforts to redefine the social studies curriculum pitted him in a heightened and dramatic conflict in the late 1930s and early 1940s against cultural and political conservatives. This lively and comprehensive biography of Rugg provides a deep, turbulent, and inspiring account that informs us today about the profound connections between the school and society. Rugg’s concept of the artist-teacher remains as an ideal that contemporary educators need to reexamine.” ∼ Gerald L. Gutek, Professor Emeritus of Education, Loyola University, Chicago

“Ron Evans shows why Harold Rugg’s curriculum work resides at the center of some of the most roiling educational debates of the 20th century. At the same time, Evans’ intensive research and fine-grained analysis illuminates why Rugg’s ideas remain pertinent today.”
∼ David T. Hansen, Professor and Director, Program in Philosophy and Education,
Teachers College, Columbia University

“Ron Evans brings one of the giants of American education fully to life in this thoroughly researched and vividly rendered biography. Harold Rugg was a driving force in the progressive schools movement and the leading figure in the development of social studies as an area to challenge the deadening standardization that characterized the schools of his day. Rugg knew that education could never be neutral, and he fought for a vision of schools as a central force in the reconstruction of society along lines of freedom, participatory democracy, creativity, and justice. Evans captures Rugg in all his three-dimensional and contradictory splendor.”
∼ William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education, University of Illinois, Chicago.