David Tyack

David Tyack is the author, with Larry Cuban, of Tinkering Toward Utopia, and is currently teaching at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Recent Articles

Choice Options

Conservatives ask, “Are you for or against school choice?” The question should be, “What kind of choice are you for?” Americans’ historical experience can help answer that question.

T he current debate about school choice has raised the most basic questions about the structure of education since the nineteenth century. But the debate has been relentlessly ahistorical, as if amnesia were a virtue. Many of us seem to have forgotten why America established public schools in the first place, the means we established to make choices about education, and what we have learned not only about the advantages but also about the limitations of choice. When conservatives today speak of "choice," they have in mind choice of schools by individual parents. But choice may take a variety of forms. Communities make collective choices about education by electing school boards that set educational policy, and by voting school budgets and bonds up or down. Religious congregations may choose to create sectarian schools for their children. Students make individual choices about their education by choosing among the electives offered at their high school. One form of choice may come at...

School Reform is Dead (Long Live School Reform)

The nation is awash in reforms and would-be reforms that promise to improve--or even transform--public schools. In Left Back , Diane Ravitch conveys a sober message: Schooling in the United States has suffered from "a century of failed school reforms." Ravitch is an influential historian and herself a seasoned school reformer who served as assistant secretary in the Department of Education during the Bush administration. Though a skilled controversialist, she wishes to speak here as the voice of objective history. "If there is a lesson to be learned from the river of ink that was spilled in the education disputes of the twentieth century," Ravitch writes, "it is that anything in education that is labeled a 'movement' should be avoided like the plague." She is not referring here to her own campaign to restore traditional academic subjects to their former place of pride in the curriculum. She is targeting, instead, the John Dewey-style innovators who once marched under the banner of "...