Harvard Educational Review
  1. And There Were Giants in the Land

    The Life of William Heard Kilpatrick

    By John A. Beineke

    New York: Peter Lang, 1998. 520 pp. $32.95

    For educational historians or readers interested in education history, this biography by John A. Beineke provides a new perspective on the life and work of William Heard Kilpatrick, a major figure in the progressive education movement in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. Labeled “Columbia’s Million Dollar Professor” for his popularity and the financial benefits his popularity drew to Teachers College in that period, Kilpatrick was also known as Dewey’s chief interpreter for his popularization of Dewey’s somewhat dense educational philosophy.

    Kilpatrick’s ideas, which often varied from Dewey’s, include project-based learning, curriculum integration, and whole child education. Although developed in the progressive period, they reverberate in contemporary debates over educational reform. Beineke’s biography, with its accounts of where and how these debates began, is therefore particularly important. Drawing from Kilpatrick’s voluminous, previously sealed diaries, interviews, and numerous other primary and secondary sources, Beineke draws a rich portrait of Kilpatrick to fill a gap that has existed in education history.

    Although Kilpatrick has been both canonized and damned in educational circles, there has been little recent critical study of his life or his work. The last book on Kilpatrick, essentially a paean to the educator, was a 1951 celebratory biography by Samuel H. Tennenbaum entitled William Heard Kilpatrick: Trailblazer in Education. While Beineke’s book occasionally comes close to echoing the tone of this earlier biography, it generally avoids the celebratory trap. For example, in a chapter entitled “Race, Religion, and the South,” Beineke shows the contradictions present in Kilpatrick’s views on those subjects. He reveals that Kilpatrick, a native Georgian and the son of a Baptist preacher, was “able to advance his opinions on race beyond his native prejudices” to “a solidly liberal stance” (pp. 387–388), yet was never able to speak out against segregation. While he argued that a group should not be judged for its leaders’ actions, Kilpatrick railed against Catholics and the Catholic Church. The inclusion and discussion of such gray areas of Kilpatrick’s life make Beineke’s work a distinct step up from the beatifications and vilifications that have previously been published.

    The portrait of Kilpatrick would have undoubtedly been richer and ultimately more human had Beineke explored these inconsistencies more thoroughly and not simply dismissed them as “cultural limitations” (p. 388), but his work is welcome for its extensive research, clear writing, and needed reexamination of the life and work of William Heard Kilpatrick.

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    Book Notes

    Critical Education in the New Information Age
    By Manuel Castells, Ramón Flecha, Paulo Freire, Henry A. Giroux, Donaldo Macedo, and Paul Willis

    Whose Judgment Counts?
    By Evangeline Harris Stefanakis

    Good Education
    By Ivor A. Pritchard

    The Curriculum
    Edited by Landon E. Beyer and Michael W. Apple

    And There Were Giants in the Land
    By John A. Beineke