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Henry Chauncey

An American Life


Norbert Elliot

A leader in twentieth-century education, Henry Chauncey (1905–2002) introduced large-scale assessment into the lives of individual Americans. This first full-length educational biography examines Chauncey’s education at Groton School, Ohio State University, and Harvard College, his position as a teacher at William Penn Charter School, and his role as founding president of the Educational Testing Service. Documenting a career extending from the Great Depression through the end of the Cold War, this book provides an interpretative history of educational measurement through the careers of Chauncey and his contemporaries. As researcher, administrator, and writer, Chauncey dealt with topics central to the history of schools and schooling: the role of accountability in education; the value of individual difference; the identification of talent; the necessity of international perspectives; the resonance between technology and learning; and the impulse for social justice. This biography provides insight into the multidisciplinary factors that shaped the social enterprise of American education.
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Chapter 2. Fathers and Sons, 1838 to 1905




Henry Chauncey returned home on March 30, 1985. A fan of PBS, he watched Wall Street Week and kept at War and Remembrance, a dense volume by Herman Wouk that he had put aside many times before. There was the usual hassle of things to be done when first back. He called his daughter Caroline and heard the sad news that she had a malignant tumor behind her ear. A staff writer for Dollars and Sense, published by the socialist-oriented Union for Radical Political Economics, Caroline was converting to Judaism and planning to marry. He picked up Tinker at the kennel. Looking thin after his master’s absence, his dog was glad to get home. Chauncey missed Sarah on his first try, but she called back in the evening.

He started in on the mail, all 2.6 cubic feet of it. He walked up the hill on Pine Hollow Farm with Tinker to get back in shape, was in bed by 10:30, and rose the next day to plunge back into the mail, a task that took until 6 P.M. An ever-attendant father, he spoke on the phone to Susan. His firstborn with Laurie, Susan, who looked remarkably like her mother, was now a clinical social worker at Massachusetts General Hospital. He chatted with William, his eldest son with Elizabeth. Nicknamed “Edgie” after his grandfather, Bill was a former Air Force pilot who was now Director of...

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