Crain, William C(hristopher) 1943-

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CRAIN, William C(hristopher) 1943-


Born December 23, 1943, in Los Angeles, CA; son of William Willis and Kay Crain; married Ellen V. Fairweather, March 18, 1966; children: Adam, Thomas, Sarah. Ethnicity: "White." Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1965; University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1969. Politics: Democrat.


Home—801 West End Ave., Apt. 2B, New York, NY 10025. Office—Psychology Department, Office 7/317, City College of the City University of New York, 138th St. and Convent Ave., New York, NY 10031. E-mail—[email protected].


City College of the City University of New York, assistant professor, 1970-78, associate professor, 1979-88, professor of psychology, 1988—. Consulting psychologist, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, 1976-95.


American Psychological Association.


Special resolution, City University of New York, in recognition of work on open meetings and open access, 1998; Edpress Award finalist, 1998, for essay, "How Nature Helps Children Develop."


Children's Role-taking as Participants and Observers (Ph.D. thesis), University of Chicago (Chicago, IL), 1969.

Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications (textbook), Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1980, 4th edition, 2000.

Reclaiming Childhood: Letting Children Be Children in an Achievement-oriented Society, Times Books/Holt (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to journals, including Academe, New York Times, and Montessori Life.


Fifth edition of Theories of Development; editing the journal Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice.


William C. Crain is a developmental psychologist who is concerned with how children's minds and personalities evolve. His Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications is a major textbook in the field, while Reclaiming Childhood: Letting Children Be Children in an Achievement-oriented Society is geared toward a more general audience and questions the assumption that the major task of parents and educators is to prepare children for the future. Adults, Crain argues, must begin to appreciate the special qualities of childhood and give children a chance to develop these qualities. He emphasizes children's natural dramatic, artistic, poetic, and linguistic capacities and their sensitivity to nature.

Theories of Development provides a sampling of theories from a diverse group of thinkers, including Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget, Maria Montessori, and even Enlightenment philosophers John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It also discusses how these theories may be put into practice in schools, the home, and other environments. Some critics have praised Crain's work for covering such a variety of theorists. "Crain spreads his net widely and some of his most interesting material is about theorists who usually do not figure much in books about developmental psychology," commented P. E. Bryant in a review of the second edition for Nature. Bryant thought Crain sometimes "rather too uncritical" of the various theories, but the reviewer still found the book "clear, enthusiastic and erudite." A Choice contributor called Theories of Development "interesting and well-documented."

Reclaiming Childhood addresses a modern trend in child-rearing, at least among middle-and upper-class families: the tendency of parents to fill children's time with lessons and other organized activities and of schools to emphasize test preparation, all with an eye on children's future educational and occupational success. Crain argues that adults are so busy preparing children for a competitive future that they are robbing children of the chance to develop fully as children. He urges adults to give children opportunities for spontaneous play, exposure to the arts, and the exploration of nature, and describes children's spontaneous achievements in these areas. "Crain supports child-centered education wherein children evolve on their own," noted Charity Peak in Library Journal. She observed that he "takes a proactive stance, offering numerous helpful strategies" that grew out of his interviews with parents and children. The result, according to Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush, is a "valuable resource for parents and teachers looking for alternative approaches to education." A Publishers Weekly reviewer further described the book as "a thoughtful plea for parents to focus on the quality of life that children can have now rather than on their future achievements."

In a positive review of Reclaiming Childhood, Montessori Life editor Joy Turner wrote, "This delightful book offers powerful support for children, as well as the discovery of a true friend and mentor for their parents and teachers."

Crain told CA: "I have always tried to translate ideas into action. From 1988 to 1997, I served as an elected member of the Teaneck, New Jersey school board, where I promoted child-centered education and fought against the growing testing movement and race-based academic tracking. I became deeply involved in civil rights issues and the protection of nature in Teaneck. These experiences have informed my writings.

"I also have been active in the effort to maintain open access to the City University of New York-to make sure that low-income students, recent immigrants, and students of color continue to have the opportunities that were won in the open admissions struggle of 1969. I have described the issues in an article, 'Open Admissions at the City University of New York,' in the July-August 2003 issue of Academe. "

In 2002 Crain became the editor of the journal Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice. In 2003 he joined the board of "The Alliance for Childhood," a coalition of professionals trying to protect childhood in today's high-pressured society.



Booklist, January 1, 2002, Vanessa Bush, review of Reclaiming Childhood: Letting Children Be Children in an Achievement-oriented Society, p. 824.

Choice, July-August, 1980, review of Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications, p. 728.

Institute for Waldorf Education Research Bulletin, June, 2003, Ed Miller, review of Reclaiming Childhood, p. 53.

Library Journal, January, 2003, Charity Peak, review of Reclaiming Childhood, p. 146.

Montessori Life, summer, 1991, "Passion Is the Key: An Interview with William C. Crain," pp. 22-26; spring, 2003, Joy Turner, review of Reclaiming Childhood, p. 13.

Nature, February, 1986, P. E. Bryant, review of Theories of Development, p. 797.

Publishers Weekly, November 4, 2002, review of Reclaiming Childhood, p. 81.