Journalist Valerie Strauss interviewed historian Jack Schneider. Is Betsy DeVos right to say that American public schools have not changed for a century, she asks. He answers: Not true. Betsy DeVos doesn’t know what she is talking about.
If we could transport ourselves to a typical school of the early 20th century, the basic structural elements — desks, chalkboards, textbooks, etc. — would be recognizable. And we might see some similar kinds of power dynamics between adults and children. But almost everything else would be different. The subjects that students studied, the way the day was organized, the size of classes, the kinds of supports young people received — these essential aspects of education were all different. Teachers were largely untrained. Access to education was entirely shaped by demographic factors like race and income; special education didn’t exist. Latin was still king. It was just a completely different…
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