Americans in the 20th century have made tremendous efforts to create, in the words of Noah Webster, “a system of education that should embrace every part of the community.”
In this issue, Education Week continues its yearlong series chronicling the successes and setbacks in those efforts over the past 100 years. “Lessons of a Century” will appear in 10 monthly installments in place of the On Assignment section. Stories by staff reporters will examine aspects of the educational landscape--people, trends, historical milestones, enduring controversies--with an emphasis on their continuing relevance as the century draws to a close. Essays by leading scholars and other observers will offer additional perspective.
The first part (“Lessons of a Century -- Part 1") explored how the United States in this century built on foundations envisioned by Webster and others soon after the American Revolution and laid down during the 1800s. Though most Americans already were receiving some formal schooling before 1900, policy decisions and social and economic forces since then have brought millions more students into the public schools, for longer periods of time and for more varied purposes. But while access has been assured, questions remain about the quality of schooling and the value of a diploma.
In Part 2, Education Week looks at the changing place of teenagers and children in our society and its schools. Included are depictions of 20th-century school life in American literature and popular culture, a look at the history of school sports, and a guest essy by the child-development scholar David Elkind.
A version of this article appeared in the February 24, 1999 edition of Education Week as Rites of Passage: Introduction