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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 Two: Raymond Callahan, Education and the Cult of Efficiency: A Study of the Social Forces That Have Shaped the Administration of the Public Schools (1962)


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Raymond Callahan, Education and the Cult of Efficiency: A Study of the Social Forces That Have Shaped the Administration of the Public Schools (1962)

Gary K. Clabaugh


Here, in brief, is why Education and the Cult of Efficiency is a classic: it remains embedded in memory long after it has been read; it can be reread with a sense of discovery; it explains the present by describing the past; and it adds a vital perspective to public schooling’s historic narrative.1

Focus on Efficiency

Broadly speaking, today’s school reformers misuse and overemphasize high-stakes testing, are preoccupied with narrow vocational objectives, proceed as if privatization is necessarily superior, bully teachers instead of eliciting their cooperation, and fault public education for the inevitable academic consequences of festering social and economic injustices. Many wonder how such a misbegotten agenda ever became so dominant.2 Callahan describes its beginnings.

Education and the Cult of Efficiency focuses on that critical period (1900–1930) when the general social and economic climate pushed public schooling into a long-lasting embrace of what Callahan labels “the cult of efficiency.”

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