Storm over the schoolhouse: Exploring popular influences upon the American curriculum, 1890-1941

Jonathan Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent histories of the American curriculum have shown how citizen groups influenced local course offerings and state requirements during the early twentieth century. Using case studies of three subject areas - history, military training, and foreign languages -this article demonstrates that lay activists also affected the content and even the enrollment of these courses. The article illustrates the enormous range of citizens who entered curricular disputes, the diversity of strategies they employed, and the disparate results of their efforts. It also suggests a new explanation for the decline of the traditional "3 R's" and the rise of a more "practical," differentiated curriculum between the turn of the century and World War Two. Hardly the pawns of school officials, laypeople had their own "practical" reasons for embracing this trend: it opened the door to whatever new agendas they hoped to inject. Across the ideological spectrum, then, citizen groups joined hands to condemn old-fashioned, academic curricula. Not until the late 1940s would conservative activists rally around the 3 R's, sparking a new school war that still rages today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)602-626
Number of pages25
JournalTeachers College Record
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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