Sewall, Gilbert T.
SEWALL, Gilbert T.
CAREER: Journalist and educator. Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, instructor in history, 1970–78; Newsweek, New York, NY, education editor, 1979–81; Institute of Politics and Philosophy of Education, Columbia University Teachers College, research associate, 1981–82, 1986–87; Columbia University Teachers College, New York, NY, codirector of educational excellence network, 1986–88; American Textbook Council, New York NY, director, 1989–. Boston University School of Education, senior research associate, 1986–87; Center for Educational Studies, president, beginning 1989. Reader, Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, beginning 1991; visiting scholar, American Academy in Rome, 2002. Consultant; has appeared as a commentator on the Cable News Network (CNN), National Public Radio (NPR), Fox News, and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
AWARDS, HONORS: Kenan fellow, American Academy in Rome, 1976; International Reading Association Journalism Prize, 1980; Stewart Mott Award, Education Writers Association, 1981; National Humanities Center fellow, 1981–82; Columbia University Teachers College Kappa Delta Pi Educator of the Year award, 1989; grants from National Council for History Standards, National Endowment for the Humanities, and U.S. Department of Education, 1992–94.
(With Albert C. Ganley and Thomas T. Lyons) After Hiroshima: America since 1945, Independent School Press (Wellesley Hills, MA), 1979, 3rd edition revised as The USA since 1945: After Hiroshima, Longman (New York, NY), 1993.
Necessary Lessons: Decline and Renewal in American Schools, Free Press (New York, NY), 1983.
(Editor) The Eighties: A Reader, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1997.
Author of reports for various institutions, including American Textbook Council, Educational Excellence Network, United Nations Association, and Rockefeller Foundation. Contributor to books, including P. Altback and others, editors, Textbooks in American Society, Statue University of New York Press, 1991; John Fonte and Andre Ryerson, editors, Education for America's Role in World Affairs, University Press of America, 1994; and Katharine Washburn and John Thornton, editors, Dumbing Down: The Strip-Mining of American Culture, W. W. Norton, 1996. Contributor to professional journals, including Education Week, Middle East Quarterly, American Educator, Academic Questions, American School Board Journal, and Society; contributor to periodicals, including Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and New York Times. Member of editorial board, Phi Delta Kappan, 1991–, and Publishing Research Quarterly, 1994–2001.
SIDELIGHTS: An educational advocate associated with the Columbia University Teachers College and president of the Center for Educational Studies, Gilbert T. Sewall directs the American Textbook Council, an independent research organization that reviews textbooks in history and the humanities. A former journalist and educator, he is the author of several works related to American education, including Necessary Lessons: Decline and Renewal in American Schools.
Necessary Lessons was prompted by an invitation to the author from the Council for Basic Education. Sewall had worked as an education editor for Newsweek and was concerned with what he perceived as the state of public education in the United States. The book, according to reviewer Stephen N. Tchudi in Phi Delta Kappan, is a conservative interpretation of the quality of education in America, as well as an attempt to propose solutions for improvement. Tchudi said that Sewall blames the demise of U.S. education on a number of liberal lobbies which surfaced in the sixties. Some of these, according to Sewall, advocated forced integration, compulsory busing, and compensatory education. Sewall claims that the liberal causes which brought about these changes were well organized by groups such as the Children's Defense Fund and the Council on Interracial Books for Children. Yet according to Tchudi, Sewall "neither advances the conservative position nor presents new insights into the problems that educators face." While Tchudi criticized the tone and language of the book as sarcastic and slanted, reviewer Phillip Keisling, writing in the Washington Monthly, found the language in Necessary Lessons spirited and the reporting hard-hitting. Keisling recommended the book on the grounds that it offers "a clear, compelling dissection of where schools went wrong"; he cited, for example, increasingly relaxed academic standards and teachers unions which have placed their own needs above those of the students.
Sewall has also edited The Eighties: A Reader, a collection of pointed essays on 1980s culture by noted authors that address such subjects as the 1980s money society, the technology blitz, and the rise and demise of the sexual revolution. Reviewer David Kinghoffer suggested in the Wall Street Journal that Sewall selected the essays with preference for neoconservative authors, "whom liberals have to respect because they went to an Ivy League college or don't believe in God." Neocons, claimed Kinghoffer, don't have a unified ideology, and therefore do not, as reflected by Sewall's book, offer a cohesive assessment of what the 1980s were about. On a different note, reviewer Mark Y. Herring, writing in Library Journal, found the essay collection so tongue-in-check that "it will delight its friends while disquieting its enemies."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, November 15, 1997, Mark Y. Herring, review of The Eighties: A Reader, p. 68.
Phi Delta Kappan, December, 1984, p. 300.
Wall Street Journal, January 5, 1998, p. A20.
Washington Monthly, April, 1984, p. 60.