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on September 21, 2005
A well written, well researched book.

Discover the ways public education was implemented, first in Massachusetts, which was a wrangling battle for decades, then elsewhere. From the early colonies and the 'Prussian model' up through Horace Mann.

Gives the origins of the thinking that was used to bring the notion that state provided education is desireable and necessary.

Be Aware, this notion is not one the early American communities relied on. They relied on their church, their neighbor, themselves, and their representative government.

As Professor Richard A Baer, Jr., Cornell University wrote after reading the book - "Superb"

"An oasis of sanity in the statist wasteland created by the government's education system." - Frank E. Fortkamp, Reason Magazine
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VINE VOICEon August 19, 2010
Samuel Blumenfeld's "Is Public Education Necessary?" has one over-arching goal: to demonstrate that the history of public education (in the Northeast at least) has not been an inevitable, democractic movement concerned with empowering people, but an elitist campaign with the primary goal of remolding people to the elite's vision. Unlike other revisionist accounts of education (Gatto's The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher's Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling), this book is much more focused, formal, and documented. (Gatto tends to infer things without arguing for the inferences explicitly; not so with Blumenfeld.)

The book starts in Early Massachusetts, where Calvinism was the (civil and religous) law of the land. As the Boston education laws of 1642 and 1647 demonstrate, education was thought impportant but was also regarded as the parents' responsibility (whether they wanted to educate at home or send children to a dame school, etc). Blumenfeld offers many reasons to suppose that literacy was quite high before the age of public education.

From there, we look at the seemingly parellel developments of the "Owenites," (disciples of utopian thinker Robert Owen, who saw clearly that controlling minds meant public, uniform, educaiton) and the gradual shift in Boston from a Calvinist outlook to a Unitarian one. Unitarians, who saw humans as much more perfectible than Calvinists did, and saw it as people's duty to save/help others, saw a promising cause in its ability to help others and perfect humankind. Owenites and Unitarians had common cause here and, while Owenites were often the 'behind the scenes' players, Blumenfeld offers very good evidence that they did, in fact, work with Unitarians.

From here, an intellectual elite was created in Boston of folks who were both Unitarians and Whigs. Horace Mann became one with this group, voting, as a state senator, in lockstep with the Whig party and developing many "friends" there. Once he was nominated to become the Superintendent of Boston Schools, he and the elite "friends" of his in the legislature worked tirelessly to make sure that, above all opposition, their vision of installing centralized, bureacuratized schooling became reality.

The theme through all of this was that it was this elite, rather than the people, who really drove this history. Blumenfeld again offers good evidence that contrary to enacting the people's will in creating these schools (and teaching colleges), the people were still frequenting private academies in larger numbers than public schools. One simply can't read Mann's reports on the state of education, for instance, without noticing his pleas to the public to use the public schooling system that was apperently so promising! (If it was so promising, of course, why were these pleas even necessary?)

The only complaint I have about this book is that Massachusetts is focused on almost exclusively. There are many other states with many other interesting histories of public education (all of which developed public ed much slower and cautiously than did Massachusetts). These stories need still to be told.
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on October 2, 2010
If you are getting into education it will open your eyes to the fraud of the government public school system. If you are a taxpayer it will make your blood boil at how your money is being wasted to indoctrinate children into the idea that government is good.
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on September 19, 2015
Good book. Very informational.
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