Paper $42.00 ISBN: 9780226435305 Will Publish October 2017
Cloth $52.00 ISBN: 9780226772097 Published May 2012
E-book $10.00 to $42.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226772127 Published April 2011 Also Available From

School, Society, and State

A New Education to Govern Modern America, 1890-1940

Tracy L. Steffes

School, Society, and State

Tracy L. Steffes

304 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2012
Paper $42.00 ISBN: 9780226435305 Will Publish October 2017
Cloth $52.00 ISBN: 9780226772097 Published May 2012
E-book $10.00 to $42.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226772127 Published April 2011

 “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife,” wrote John Dewey in his classic work The School and Society. In School, Society, and State, Tracy Steffes places that idea at the center of her exploration of the connections between public school reform in the early twentieth century and American political development from 1890 to 1940.

American public schooling, Steffes shows, was not merely another reform project of the Progressive Era, but a central one. She addresses why Americans invested in public education and explains how an array of reformers subtly transformed schooling into a tool of social governance to address the consequences of industrialization and urbanization. By extending the reach of schools, broadening their mandate, and expanding their authority over the well-being of children, the state assumed a defining role in the education—and in the lives—of American families.

In School, Society, and State, Steffes returns the state to the study of the history of education and brings the schools back into our discussion of state power during a pivotal moment in American political development.

Review Quotes
Jonathan Zimmerman | New York University

“How did Americans develop a school system that was both national in scope and local in character? In this remarkable book, Tracy Steffes provides some bold new answers to a very old question. For the past century, Americans have asked public schools to reconcile individualism with collectivism, localism with centralization, and democracy with capitalism. Steffes asks why and whether we're asking schools to do too much.”

Carl Kaestle | Brown University
“Historians have noted the expansion of the regulatory state on issues of social welfare during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but no one has analyzed this phenomenon in the field of education with such clarity and energy as Tracy Steffes. Lively from the first page to the last, School, Society, and State sheds light both on the expansion of state-level regulations and on the development of a national culture of shared policy and practice. This is a judicious book, well researched and nicely conceived.”
Elisabeth Clemens | author of The People’s Lobby

“In a rich and original historical account, Tracy Steffes explores the development of American schooling in order to illuminate the distinctive quality of the American state. Public education represents a system that is simultaneously local and national, an array of institutions that both cultivates the individual citizen and enables government power to penetrate deeply into the authority of parents to determine whether their children should attend school and what they should learn. School, Society, and State makes a powerful case for how the power of the state is constituted in everyday practices and “bottom-up” processes.”

Jack Schneider | History of Education Quarterly
“In a country characterized by decentralized legal control, limited federal authority, and general discomfort with social welfare programs, how did we end up with the school system we have? . . . It is a compelling line of inquiry, and in pursuing it Tracy Steffes draws on a broad range of sources—both primary and secondary—from political science, legal history, sociology, political history, and the history of education.” 
“Tracy Steffes aims to demonstrate that early-twentieth-century school reform was the result of both top down and bottom up planning, and represents an example of ‘a major project of national state-building' in response to the social and economic tensions of the time. Steffes is largely successful in making this argument, with some chapters being quite insightful.”
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