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Storm Over the Schoolhouse: Exploring Popular Influences Upon the American Curriculum, 1890-1941


by Jonathan Zimmerman — 1999

Recent histories of the American curriculum have shown how citizen groups influenced local course offerings and state requirements during the early twentieth century. Using case studies of three subject areas—history, military training, and foreign languages? this article demonstrates that lay activists also affected the content and even the enroll-ment of these courses. The article illustrates the enormous range of citizens who entered curricular disputes, the diversity of strategies they employed, and the disparate results of their efforts. It also suggests a new explanation for the decline of the traditional ? R’s? and the rise of a more “practical,?differentiated curriculum between the turn of the cen-tury and World War Two. Hardly the pawns of school officials, laypeople had their own “practical?reasons for embracing this trend: it opened the door to whatever new agen-das they hoped to inject. Across the ideological spectrum, then, citizen groups joined hands to condemn old-fashioned, academic curricula. Not until the late 1940s would conservative activists rally around the 3 R’s, sparking a new school war that still rages today.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 100 Number 3, 1999, p. 602-626
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10324, Date Accessed: 10/18/2017 11:07:01 AM

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About the Author
  • Jonathan Zimmerman
    New York University
    E-mail Author
    JONATHAN ZIMMERMAN is assistant professor of educational history, New York University. He is the author of Distilling Democracy: Alcohol Education in America’s Public Schools, 1880-1925. (University Press of Kansas, 1999).
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