Jonathan Zimmerman is a Professor of History of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. His next book, The Amateur Hour: A History of College Teaching in America, will be published in the fall.
 (July 2020)


What Is College Worth?

A student moving out of Howard University during the coronavirus pandemic, Washington, D.C., March 2020

The College Dropout Scandal

by David Kirp

The Impoverishment of the American College Student

by James V. Koch
We like to imagine college as an egalitarian force, which reduces the gap between rich and poor. But over the past four decades it has mostly served to reinforce or even to widen that gap. During these years—and for the first time in American history—a college degree became the sine qua non of middle-class stability and self-sufficiency. Yet rising tuition and declining government assistance has put the degree out of reach for many Americans.

The Uncivil War Over Schools

Protesters against public school closings, Chicago, 2013; from the film ’63 Boycott

Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side

by Eve L. Ewing

A Political Education: Black Politics and Education Reform in Chicago Since the 1960s

by Elizabeth Todd-Breland
In 2012 Chicago public school teachers went on strike. They aimed not just to improve their wages and hours but to stalemate the reform agenda of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who wanted to replace underperforming neighborhood schools with charter schools, lengthen the school day, and tie teacher salaries to students’ scores …

‘Brown’: Without Deliberate Speed

Recess on the first day of integration at Little Rock Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957

A Girl Stands at the Door: The Generation of Young Women Who Desegregated America’s Schools

by Rachel Devlin

The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind

by Justin Driver
In 1971 William Rehnquist faced a bruising confirmation hearing for a seat on the United States Supreme Court. Seventeen years earlier, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the Court had ruled that state-sponsored segregation of schools was unconstitutional. But in 1952, as a clerk for Justice Robert Jackson, …

Scholars Behind Bars

College in Prison: Reading in an Age of Mass Incarceration

by Daniel Karpowitz

Liberating Minds: The Case for College in Prison

by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann
By any conceivable measure, the education that the inmates at the Bard Prison Initiative receive is vastly superior to the standard academic experience of the roughly 20 million undergraduates in the United States. Two recent books remind us how far our higher-education system has strayed from the humanistic ideal at the heart of the Bard project. They also serve as an indirect criticism of mass higher education, not just mass incarceration.

He Transformed the Schools, But…

Joel Klein visiting a classroom at Public School 189, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, circa 2002

Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools

by Joel Klein
“Most people want to make sure tomorrow is just like yesterday.” That’s what the famed psychologist Bruno Bettelheim said to Joel Klein over four decades ago, when Klein spent a fellowship year with him at Stanford. But Bettelheim sensed something different about his young disciple. “You’re not like that,” he …

Why Is American Teaching So Bad?

Bob Moses, civil rights activist and founder of the Algebra Project, a program that ‘uses mathematics as an organizing tool to ensure quality public school education for every child in America,’ with students at Lanier High School, Jackson, Mississippi, 2002

The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession

by Dana Goldstein

Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone)

by Elizabeth Green
Who becomes a teacher in America? The answer keeps changing, and not in ways that should make any of us proud.

What Are Schools For?

Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine—a group of African-American students enrolled in the segregated Little Rock Central High School following the Brown decision—pursued by a mob on the first day of the school year, September 4, 1957. Arkansas National Guardsmen sent by Governor Orville Faubus blocked the nine from entering the school; three weeks later President Eisenhower sent federal troops to protect them and enforce desegregation.

In Brown's Wake: Legacies of America's Educational Landmark

by Martha Minow
One of the first things we learn in school is that America was founded on a set of ideas, not on shared racial or ancestral bonds. All men are created equal. Liberty and justice for all. Out of many, one. Our history reflects the different and often conflicting ways that …