In this essay the author describes the rise of compulsory schooling in the United States and then views this phenomenon through five different explanatory models. The first two are largely political, revealing compulsory schooling as a form of political construction and as an outgrowth of ethnocultural conflict. Noting the rise of educational bureaucracies, the author next offers an organizational interpretation as a third way of viewing compulsory schooling. The last two models are largely economic: one depicts the growth in schooling as an investment in human capital, and the other, using a Marxian approach, shows compulsory schooling to be a means of reproducing the class structure of American society. In conclusion,Professor Tyack observes that alternative ways of seeing not only draw on different kinds of evidence, but also depict different levels of social reality and so aid us in gaining a wider and more accurate perception of the past.

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