Although I wouldn’t want anyone to rush out to buy Alan Ryan’s Liberal Anxieties and Liberal Education (his writing style is quite difficult to follow), plowing through his little book does provide insight into the liberal mind, both past and present. The little bits of educational history are especially interesting to those of us who question the status quo:
“Much else that we take for granted in the structure of schools came about around the time of World War I. It was the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching that established the assumption that high school and college courses would come in ‘course units’ worth so many credits, and that such units would reflect at secondary level the work done in a period a day for a five-day week. Paradoxically enough, the high school pattern was set not because of a national determination to rationalize the organization of schools but because in 1905 Andrew Carnegie had set up a fund to provide pensions for retired college professors. Deciding what constituted a ‘real’ college focused the foundation’s mind on entrance requirements, and thus on a ‘real’ high school curriculum. Essentially, the foundation decided that real colleges required fourteen courses in English, history, mathematics, and science for admission, and schools found it easy to organize themselves around such a structure” (pg. 107).