To recreate ""a community of commitment to public schooling,"" educational historian Tyack (The One Best System, etc.) and...


MANAGERS OF VIRTUE: Public School Leadership in America, 1820-1980

To recreate ""a community of commitment to public schooling,"" educational historian Tyack (The One Best System, etc.) and political theorist Hansot have reviewed its much-maligned leadership--in the era of public-school expansion, 18201890; of institutionalization, 1890-1954; and of advance and retreat, 1954 onward. The result is a history that complements Cremin's Transformation of the School (1961) and American Education (1890); a smooth, clear presentation of quite sophisticated concepts--in, however, bland, repetitive, unstimulating prose; and, as regards the book's purposes, mixed success. Insofar as public-school leadership has been undermined by revisionist and radical criticism of elitism (or propagating the dominant social, economic, and cultural values), Tyack and Hansot offer a balanced, non-conspiratorial reinterpretation of the mid-19th-century ""common-school crusade""--as a means both of teaching common values and of suppressing variant ones--to which the public-school-minded can give intellectual and emotional assent. Similarly, they re-interpret the Progressive social-engineering push--""the experts would run everything to everyone's benefit""--as both intrinsically self-serving and outwardly idealistic. In either case, the educational leadership (not only white, male, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, but also rural and poorish in origin) expressed what it believed; and believed what it expressed. All this is reintegrative and persuasive: a comprehensible, imperfect, unshameful past. But the present crisis in educational leadership is also, as Tyack and Hansot recognize, a crisis of faith--and their efforts to shore it up are only partly successful. To the good, they point to the inherent, stultifying bias against controversy--coupled with a willingness to compromise, quietly and pragmatically, on some differences. (Thus, German language schools were allowed for a time--on the well-founded belief that ""the next generation . . . will work into the English schools entirely""; but no ground was given to the Catholics on the schools' ""pan-Protestantism""--wherefore there arose the country's ""largest 'alternative school system.'"") This is cautionary and constructive counsel. But most of the burden of generating a new faith rests on the profiles of dissenting school leaders--most especially Chicago Supt. of Schools Ella Flagg Young (""The Leader as Democrat""), East Harlem high-school principal Leonard Corelle (""The Leader as Community Organizer""), and Oakland's tragically-assassinated black standout, Marcus Foster (""The Leader as Mobilizer""). And while the Young material is part of an examination of the aborted female drive for equality in the Progressive era, the Covello and Foster material has little historical or theoretical grounding (the post-1954 section is cursory, in any case). These are inspirational role models, simply, which fail to suggest how a national ""community of commitment"" can be created. Withal, the book is important both for its considerable accomplishment and for its large aspiration.

Pub Date: April 30, 1982

ISBN: 0465043747

Page Count: -

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1982