Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory

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Yale University Press, May 14, 2014 - Education - 256 pages
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The little red schoolhouse has all but disappeared in the United States, but its importance in national memory remains unshakable. This engaging book examines the history of the one-room school and how successive generations of Americans have remembered--and just as often misremembered--this powerful national icon. Drawing on a rich range of sources, from firsthand accounts to poems, songs, and films, Jonathan Zimmerman traces the evolution of attitudes toward the little red schoolhouse from the late nineteenth century to the present day. At times it was celebrated as a symbol of lost rural virtues or America's democratic heritage; at others it was denounced as the epitome of inefficiency and substandard academics. And because the one-room school has been a useful emblem for liberal, conservative, and other agendas, the truth of its history has sometimes been stretched. Yet the idyllic image of the schoolhouse still unites Americans. For more than a century, it has embodied the nation's best aspirations and--especially--its continuing faith in education itself.

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Few Americans now alive attended a one-room schoolhouse. Yet, for most Americans, the image of a red-painted, white-trimmed wooden building with a small cupola perched atop its peaked roof instantly ... Read full review


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About the author (2014)

Jonathan Zimmerman is professor of education and history at New York University. His books include "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory" and "Innocents Abroad: American Teachers in the American Century." His writing has appeared in the "New York Times," the "Washington Post," and other publications.

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