Tinkering Toward Utopia

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Harvard University Press, 1995 - Education - 184 pages
2 Reviews

For over a century, Americans have translated their cultural anxieties and hopes into dramatic demands for educational reform. Although policy talk has sounded a millennial tone, the actual reforms have been gradual and incremental. Tinkering toward Utopia documents the dynamic tension between Americans' faith in education as a panacea and the moderate pace of change in educational practices.

In this book, David Tyack and Larry Cuban explore some basic questions about the nature of educational reform. Why have Americans come to believe that schooling has regressed? Have educational reforms occurred in cycles, and if so, why? Why has it been so difficult to change the basic institutional patterns of schooling? What actually happened when reformers tried to "reinvent" schooling?

Tyack and Cuban argue that the ahistorical nature of most current reform proposals magnifies defects and understates the difficulty of changing the system. Policy talk has alternated between lamentation and overconfidence. The authors suggest that reformers today need to focus on ways to help teachers improve instruction from the inside out instead of decreeing change by remote control, and that reformers must also keep in mind the democratic purposes that guide public education.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Othemts - LibraryThing

This slender but illustrative book traces this history of public education reforms across the 20th century. Two themes run through the book. The first is that public schools are set in their ways and ... Read full review

Review: Tinkering Toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform

User Review  - Oliver Bateman - Goodreads

A good overview of the cyclical nature of public education reform in America, but you'll have to look elsewhere for the fine details on these particular subjects. In terms of giving you talking points ... Read full review


Prologue Learning from the Past
Progress or Regress?
Policy Cycles and Institutional Trends
How Schools Change Reforms
Why the Grammar of Schooling Persists
Reinventing Schooling
Looking toward the Future

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About the author (1995)

Larry Cuban is Professor Emeritus of Education at Stanford University and past president of the American Educational Research Association.

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