The Hope for American School Reform: The Cold War Pursuit of Inquiry Learning in Social Studies (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

The Hope for American School Reform: The Cold War Pursuit of Inquiry Learning in Social Studies

As the issue of school reform grows ever more intense, it is imperative that we learn what we can from previous efforts. The new social studies was a 1960s attempt to transform the teaching of history and the social sciences in schools. With origins in the Cold War, the movement sought to develop critical thinkers through “inquiry” and “discovery.” Though it led to a veritable treasure trove of innovative materials, the “revolution” envisioned by its proponents never materialized. Engagingly written and drawing on previously untapped archival sources, The Hope for American School Reform offers an insightful perspective on current trends.

***Recipient of the 2011 Exemplary Research Award from the National Council for the Social Studies***

“Ron Evans has crafted what will surely become the seminal answers to the questions ‘Where did the new social studies come from and why should we care?’ In this important, carefully researched, and well-written book, Evans situates the 40 federally funded curriculum projects that together came to be known as the ‘new social studies’ in historical context, drawing attention to their conservative origins, the many ways in which they were pedagogically progressive, and the reasons why they did not have the long-term impact so many educators hoped for and expected. This well-researched and lively book is important for all social studies educators who seek to learn from the past in order to create a better social studies future.” —Diana Hess, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Ron Evans’ latest book, like his earlier works, provides a meticulously researched history of social studies reform written in a style that is accessible to both scholars and lay readers. His narrative of the origins and reforms called for in the New Social Studies along with the concluding comparison to today’s attempted educational reform movement, provide a cautionary tale about the motivations of politicians, reformers, and other political stakeholders as they attempt to change the direction of America’s social studies/history program.”
— Barbara Slater Stern, Professor, James Madison University

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The Tragedy of American School Reform: How Curriculum Politics and Entrenched Dilemmas Have Diverted Us From Democracy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

The Tragedy of American School Reform: How Curriculum Politics and Entrenched Dilemmas Have Diverted Us From Democracy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

Two persistent dilemmas haunt school reform: curriculum politics and classroom constancy. Both undermined the 1960s’ new social studies, a dynamic reform movement centered on inquiry, issues, and social activism. Dramatic academic freedom controversies ended reform and led to a conservative restoration. On one side were teachers and curriculum developers; on the other, conservative activists determined to undo the revolutions of the 1960s. The episode brought a return to traditional history, a turn away from questioning, and the re-imposition of authority. Engagingly written and thoroughly researched, The Tragedy of American School Reform offers a provocative perspective on schooling.

“A good, richly documented history of the turbulent period of school reform, with particular emphasis upon the social sciences, and the frequently vengeful conservative reaction with which we are living up to the present day. I have lived through much of the period that Evans documents so skillfully and can personally attest to both the optimistic and frequently calamitous story he has given us.”—Jonathan Kozol, award-winning author of Death at an Early Age and Amazing Grace

“Through a meticulous examination of the social studies curriculum, [Evans] makes clear why current reforms are not likely to succeed, in light of ‘curriculum politics’ and the largely uncritical ‘constancy’ of our teaching methods and content. An important contribution to the current debate.”
—Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr., University of Miami

“Evans’ extensive knowledge of education history helps the reader understand that, for the past century, the American classroom has been a battleground for the ideological direction of our nation. He tells the story of education reform as though he was tracking the movements of a winding river and makes the reader aware of the various liberal and conservative tributaries, cross currents, eddies, rip-tides, and white water that have an unavoidable effect on any vessel navigating in the stream. He also makes it clear that, for now and for the foreseeable future, liberal and conservative ideologues will continue to battle for control of the boat’s helm.”—Trey Kay, producer of the award-winning radio documentary The Great Textbook War

“An excellent and well-researched contribution by one of our finest historians of American social studies education—of American education period. Ron Evans’ insights into the powerful and constraining political and social forces that inhibit meaningful and democratic school reform should be read by everyone interested in social studies and in the present state of schooling. In today’s increasingly restrictive climate of standards-based reform and high-stakes testing, no book could be more timely or more relevant.”—Kevin D. Vinson, Senior Lecturer, University of the West Indies