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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 Four: Herbert Kohl, 36 Children (1967)


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Herbert Kohl, 36 Children (1967)

Barbara J. Thayer-Bacon

Born in 1937, Herbert Kohl began a 6-year teaching assignment in Harlem in 1962, just 2 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 required public schools in the United States to desegregate or risk losing their federal funding. He wrote about that teaching experience in 36 Children (1967). Growing up in a Jewish family in the Bronx and attending the Bronx High School of Science, Kohl’s childhood dream was to become a teacher, and he was sorely disappointed when he learned, after enrolling at Harvard, that the university did not offer teaching degrees. (He detailed that disappointment in a later publication, Growing Minds [1984)].) Kohl graduated from Harvard in 1958 with a philosophy and mathematics degree, attended University College, Oxford on a Henry Fellowship (1958–1959), and studied philosophy at Columbia University on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship (1959–1960). However, he never gave up his dream to become a teacher, and in 1961 he enrolled in Teachers College, Columbia University, to earn his K–8 teaching credential. He has been teaching and writing ever since (“Herbert Kohl,” 2014).


In Growing Minds and other publications, Kohl tells us that, while seeking a teaching credential at Teachers College, Columbia University, he was removed from his student teaching assignment because he stood up for three students he had been tutoring when a substitute teacher disrespected those...

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