Category Archives: Books

Francis Adams, The Free School System of the United States (London, 1875)

Francis Adams The Free School System of the United States 1875 FrontispageThis book carries information on a broad range of aspects of America schools in the mid- and late-19th century. Chapters covers the structure of schooling systems, their cost and revenues therefore, attendance, religion and morals, teachers and their training, and curricula.

The author, who served as secretary of the UK’s National Education League, also treats the topic of governmental relations (federal to state, state to local). These two quotes underscore the centrality of federalism in U.S. schooling.

The dread of “centralisation” which prevails throughout the States has had the effect of checking every movement for enlarging the powers of the National Government. The whole tide of public sentiment in America is in favour of a perfectly unfettered working of the State systems. (pp. 20-21)

The annual meetings of the National Educational Association are attended by the most prominent educationists from all parts of the Union, and all topics affecting education are discussed. At the meeting of the Association held at Washington, January, 1874, it was resolved unanimously, “That this
convention strongly approves the policy hitherto pursued by the Federal Government, of leaving the people and local Government of each State to manage their own educational affairs without interference, believing that the principle on which this policy is based is as sound educationally as it is politically. (p. 23)

This fascinating book can be read freely on the Internet at http://archive.org/details/freeschoolsystem00adamiala. It is available in a variety of formats, including PDF, Kindle, and EPub.

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Paul Manna, Collision Course: Federal Education Policy Meets State and Local Realities

Paul Manna, Collision Course: Federal Education Policy Meets State and Local Realities (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011)

You may order a copy of this book here.

Reviewed by Kevin R. Kosar

This website is devoted to the history of federal education policy. Manna’s study of the No Child Left Behind Act is not a history of the law.  Those wanting a sense of the political wrangling that produced NCLB ought to look here.  So why bother to mention this book on this website?

Simple—Manna’s book instead focuses on the administration of education policy—a critical and often over-looked part of federal education policy.

Put generally, policy-making and policy analysis are highly regarded in the U.S.  Plenty of universities have well-funded, high profile policy schools that funnel wonks into government. Politicians, meanwhile, may seize the mantle of statesman or law-maker (Solon!) by crafting  sweeping legislation.

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Lawrence J. McAndrews, The Era of Education: The Presidents and the Schools, 1965-2001

Lawrence J. McAndrews, The Era of Education: The Presidents and the Schools, 1965-2001 (Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2006)

You may order a copy of this book here.

Reviewed by Kevin R. Kosar

When working on my dissertation, on education policy and politics from 1789 through 2002, I was surprised to find so little research on the history of the federal role. I was pleased to find a number of articles and dissertations that examined one or another aspect of this topic; books, though, were few.

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Susan Levine, School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America’s Favorite Welfare Program

Susan Levine, School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America’s Favorite Welfare Program (Princeton University Press, 2008)

You may order a copy of this book here.

Reviewed by Kevin R. Kosar

Each school day, the National School Lunch Program provides reduced cost or free lunches to about 30 million school children. The program, which has been around since 1946, costs taxpayers over $8 billion per year. In view of its size and activities, it is astonishing that so little has been written about it. Susan Levine has done us a service, then, in producing School Lunch Politics, which describes the politics that produced and shaped the program over the decades.

As told by Levine, the National School Lunch Program is a tale of politics and the suboptimal policy it so frequently produces.

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Books on the Department of Education

Beryl A. Radin and Willis D. Hawley, Politics of Federal Reorganization: Creating the U.S. Department of Education (New York: Pergamon Books Inc., 1988).

Robert V. Heffernan, Cabinetmakers: Story of the Three-Year Battle to Establish the U.S. Department of Education (Iuniverse, 2001).

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