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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 Fifteen: Theodore R. Sizer, Horace’s Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School (1984)


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Theodore R. Sizer, Horace’s Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School (1984)

Brett Elizabeth Blake and Robert W. Blake, Jr.


Theodore Sizer’s Horace’s Compromise was the first of a trilogy of books that helped to place Sizer’s name alongside other famous school reformers, including John Dewey, whose work influenced him profoundly. Professor Sizer founded the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) the same year he published Horace’s Compromise. He believed that schools could be more egalitarian and more focused on the needs of students, emphasizing standards over standardization. However, they had to follow a set of principles that he saw as not only “largely general” but, more important, as “insistent.” Among these guiding principles were such overarching ideas as “sustenance” and “integrity,” embedded in a “tone of decency and trust” among all participants. Sizer would no doubt contend that these principles are no less important today as U.S. schools face an increasing barrage of tests, standards, and accountability measures that continue to “compromise” teachers’ teaching and students’ learning.

Data for Horace’s Compromise came from a longitudinal ethnographic study of American high schools that was co-sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Commission on Educational Issues of the National Association of Independent Schools.

Ted Sizer was dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and professor and chair of the Education Department at Brown University. Dr. Sizer...

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