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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 Seven: Charles E. Silberman, Crisis in the Classroom: The Remaking of American Education (1970)


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Charles E. Silberman, Crisis in the Classroom: The Remaking of American Education (1970)

William M. Reynolds

My motive is political, in the broadest sense of the term—as George Orwell defined it, “to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s ideas of the kind of society that we should strive after.” (Silberman, 1970, p. vii)

It is not possible to spend any prolonged period visiting public school classrooms without being appalled by the mutilation of spontaneity, of joy in learning, of pleasure creating, of sense of self. (Silberman, 1970, p. 10)


When Charles E. Silberman (1925–2011) wrote Crisis in the Classroom: The Remaking of American Education (1970), he was not faced with public schools and university teacher education classrooms that were saturated with the corporate, neoliberal agenda of standardization, high-stakes testing, accountability, pay-for-performance, and scripted lesson plans. He was appalled for different reasons, but his sentiments certainly echo through the years and have some relevance for the current historical moment. He would, no doubt, be absolutely horrified by the state of public education 45 years later. He was concerned, as were many educational critics, curriculum theorists, and others of that period, by the lack of meaning in public school and university classrooms.

Silberman was not an educator but rather a journalist and sociologist (see Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, & Taubman, 2004). In the late...

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