This Happened in America

Harold Rugg and the Censure of Social Studies

Ronald W. Evans, San Diego State University

A volume in the series: Studies in the History of Education. Editor(s): Karen L. Riley, Auburn University at Montgomery.

Published 2007

This long awaited biography of Harold Rugg is a dramatic and compelling story with profound implications for today’s educators. Harold Rugg, one of the leading progressive educators of the 20th century, developed an innovative social studies program and textbook series that was censured by conservative critics during the 1940s. Read the full story behind Rugg, the man and the educator, and the critics who attacked him.

Harold O. Rugg was professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a key leader among the social frontier group that emerged in the 1930s to argue that schools should play a stronger role in helping to reconstruct society. He was author of a best selling social studies textbook series that came under attack from patriotic and business groups in the early years of World War II. The story of his rise and fall encapsulates a pivotal episode in the history of American education and reveals a great deal about the direction of schooling in American life, the many roads not taken, and possibilities for the future. This in-depth examination of Rugg's life and career provides historical perspective on the recurring struggles over education. It will be of interest to every citizen concerned about the future of our democracy. Includes more than 60 photos and graphics.

Introduction: Harold Rugg, Education and Social Justice; 1. Answering the Call: Turn One, To Dartmouth, Turn Two, Toward Academia, Turn Three, Joining the Avant-Garde, The Turning Point; 2. Rugg on Social Studies: “A new vista of possibilities …”, The Apostle, A Developing Theory, The Problem with the Old Order, Key Principles of Rugg Social Studies, Behind Rugg’s Theory: A Rationale, Later Developments, Conclusion; 3. The Plan: The Research Team, The Rugg Social Science Pamphlets, The Textbooks: From Contract to Fruition, Rugg the Bohemian, Reflections on the Textbooks, Conclusion; 4. Social Reconstruction: Origins, Influences, and Involvements, Rugg on Social Reconstructionism, Critics, Rugg’s Pedagogy, Conclusion; 5. The Gathering Storm: Criticism and Attacks, The American Legion Campaign, The Campaign Spreads, A Change of Climate, Rudd and the Legion Rejoined, A Widening Conflict, Hand-to-Hand Combat; 6. The Storm Unleashed: The N.A.M. Controversy, The Struggle Continues, The Defense, Discussion, Conclusion; 7. Old Doc Rugg: Aftermath, Teacher and Scholar, A New Rugg Controversy, An Unfinished Life; Conclusion; Epilogue.

"This Happened in America is an immensely engaging, thoroughly researched, and well-written intellectual biography of one of America's leading progressive educators. Evans' narrative of Rugg's committed struggle to reconstruct the social studies curriculum into an interdisciplinary focus on major controversial issues contributes not only to the study of American education but captures the great ideological conflicts between conservatives and progressives in American democracy.

Evans' book is a highly instructive examination of how schools contribute to forming future citizens' perspectives of their social and political reality. It recounts how Rugg's efforts to redefine the social studies curriculum pitted him in a heightened and dramatic conflict in the late 1930s and early 1940s against cultural and political conservatives. This lively and comprehensive biography of Rugg provides a story of a deep, turbulent, and inspiring account that informs us today about the profound connections between the school and society. Rugg's concept of the artist-teacher remains as an ideal that contemporary educators need to reexamine." Gerald L. Gutek Professor Emeritus of Education, Loyola University Chicago

"Evans’ penetration of the convoluted viciousness of the attacks on Rugg’s book clearly is his book’s major achievement. ... Additionally, Evans’ very careful and tedious search for evidence is admirable. He found enough information in easily accessible books and journals to offer a solid overview of Rugg’s textbook series and major criticisms of it. He also uncovered rare documents in strange places as well as the usual categories of evidence in a variety of archives and collections. He pieced together facts, some minor and others almost larger than life and, then, wove strands of accounts into an impressively credible story about Rugg and the attacks on him and his books. His is an easily read history about the creation of both Rugg’s new although contested vision for the social studies and about the junior high school textbooks that he authored that were consistent with that vision." O.L. Davis University of Texas - Austin in Education Review