22 / CHRONICLESnSchool Daze by Phyllis Zaganon”A motive fair to Learning’s imps he gave. …”n—William ShenstonenThe Troubled Crusade by DianenRavitch, New York: Basic Books;n$8.95.nAgainst Mediocrity: The Humanitiesnin America’s High Schools, editednby Chester E. Finn Jr., DianenRavitch, and Robert Fancher, NewnYork: Holmes & Meier.nThe Schools We Deserve: Reflectionsnon the Educational Crisis of OurnTimes by Diane Ravitch, New York:nBasic Books; $19.95.nThe Great School Debate, edited bynBeatrice and Ronald Gross, NewnYork: Simon & Schuster; $9.95.nAmerican education has never been innvery good shape, so criticizing it nownwould be a redundancy, except for thenfact that we are facing an increasingnteacher shortage across the curriculanand across all grade levels which showsnno signs of abating. Concurrentiy, wenare stuck in a legal impasse whichnnationwide keeps incompetents,nfrauds, and persons of questionablencharacter in the classrooms with ournchildren under the double ruses ofntenure and academic freedom. Simultaneously,nthe starting salary of anteacher is about one-third that of anlawyer. Yet we claim to be interestednin the educational future of the country.nCuriously, the top players in thenFederal educational establishmentntoday belong to the counterestablishment—theynare antibusing,npro-classics, and antibilingual education.nTheir views are well representednby the educational writers here assembled.nDiane Ravitch, an Adjunct Professornat Columbia University, traces thentroubled history of American educationnsince World War II, a not-soarbitraryndate at which education atnevery level became available to morenand more people. “In 1945,” shenwrites, “American education had thenstrengths and weaknesses of a highlyndecentralized, pyramidal system.nEveryone could go to school, but thendifference in quality between the bestnschools and the worst schools werennnenormous. . . . One’s educationalnchances were limited by the accidentnof birth and by the color of one’s skin.”nHer scholarly look at educational historyndescribes more than it proscribes.nShe finds that the failure of the socalledn”progressive education” movementnwas the result of self-implosion.nProgressives, she writes, were blind tonthe “explosive racial issue” and apparentlyndid not understand the fullnmeaning of their separating studentsninto academic, general, and vocationalncurricula. Progressive education,nshe notes, had strayed far from whatnshe terms “the humane, pragmatic,nopen-minded approach advocated bynlohn Dewey.”nRavitch, in a chapter on McCarthyismnin education, argues that the timesndemanded teachers hostile to bothnCommunism and McCarthyism; afternlisting many who unequivocally denouncednthe various calls for loyaltynoaths for teachers, she finds in thentensions of this period the fragile emergencenof “academic freedom” as anconcept which would stand betweenneducator and government. After annexcursus into the ramifications of thenBrown v. Board of Education decision,nshe returns to survey more recentnAmerican educational history “FromnBerkeley to Kent State.” It is at thenformer institution she first finds academicnfreedom again under attack,n”not by external forces of reaction butnby student ideologues and their campusnsympathizers.” Education in thisndecade apparently devolved into a seriesnof protests, book burnings, marches,nand teach-ins. It can be fairlynasserted that warm weather and pendingnfinal examinations were the chiefncauses of political and social activismnamong a handful of students at anhandful of schools. The Columbianand Berkeley riots, takeovers, sit-ins,nand the like may have been mimickednat smaller, less volatile schools, butnthey were propelled by a force Ms.nRavitch does not consider: the media.nStill, this book is an accurate, oftennmaddening, look at the past 35 years ofnclassroom tinkering by the Congress,nthe do-gooders, the radicals, the re-nPhyllis Zagano, a former teacher atnboth public and private universities,nis a member of the editorial board ofnCrisis.n