History and Culture
Drawing on history and social theory, this chapter discusses how events and ideologies that shape national character also shape schools and classrooms. To emphasize milestones related to diversity and equity, it provides a timeline of important events in the history of US. schooling. The chapter offers two influential cultural assumptions—meritocracy and racial superiority; and highlights educators who are struggling against the history and culture that constrain teaching and learning in schools. At the republic's founding, Americans placed their hopes for democracy in public schools. The history and traditions of the United States reflect sometimes conflicting values: from democratic values to capitalistic ones, from concerns for individual freedoms to concerns for the common good. The misapplication of Darwin's evolutionary theories to cultural as well as racial groups confirmed for many that immigrant students were less socially and morally developed. The idea that public schools should preserve American culture was established early, with assimilation being the key mechanism for achieving that goal.