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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Thirteen: Ernest L. Boyer, High School: A Report on Secondary Education in America (1983)


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Ernest L. Boyer, High School: A Report on Secondary Education in America (1983)

John A. Beineke


Ernest L. Boyer (1928–1995) was an innovative higher education administrator and national educational leader who focused on systemic change in teaching and learning. He was chancellor of the State University of New York system and advisor to Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter named Boyer Commissioner of Education, a position that, at the time (prior to the creation of the Department of Education), was the chief federal education office in the nation. Boyer went on to head the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1979, a position he held until his death in 1995.

High School: A Report on Secondary Education in America was published in 1983. Using data from two large studies of the American high school—one by John Goodlad and the other by James Coleman—it was a call for educational reform at the secondary school level. Boyer also collaborated with two dozen school, community, and university professionals,whom he termed “observers,” to fashion his report.

Cultural and Educational Context

The early years of the 1980s were colored by the events of the preceding decade. The Watergate affair and the fall of a president; the American withdrawal from Vietnam; two other truncated presidencies accompanied by inflation, high oil prices, and interest...

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