Most recent histories of American education begin with an attack that enumerates the ways in which Ellwood P. Cubberley and other traditional historians of the early twentieth century stymied the development of the field. Indeed, these works suggest that the tradition of Cubberley and company was the only obstacle to good history of education until the pathbreaking contributions of Bernard Bailyn and Lawrence Cremin in the early 1960s. In this article, Sol Cohen argues that a rich and controversial chapter in the history of the history of education has been forgotten in the zeal to get on with the "new" history. He contends that historians need to come to terms with the struggles, primarily in the 1930s and 1940s, between those who would make the field purely "functional"—addressed to teacher training and to contemporary social problems—and those who would make it an academic discipline. After tracing the development and context of those struggles,Cohen concludes by noting certain dangerous continuities between the past and the present in the craft of history of education and cautions that progress can be made only by acknowledging and understanding that past.

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