Sizer, Theodore R. 1932–
Sizer, Theodore R. 1932–
(Theodore Ryland Sizer)
Born June 23, 1932, in New Haven, CT; son of Theodore (a professor of art history) and Caroline Sizer; married Nancy Faust (a teacher), July 2, 1955; children: Theodore II, Judith Ryland, Harold Faust, Lydia Ellen. Education: Yale University, A.B., 1953; Harvard University, M.A.T., 1957, Ph.D., 1961.
Home—Harvard, MA. Office—Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School, Office of the CES Chairman, 49 Anietam St., Devens, MA01432. E-mail—[email protected].
Roxbury Latin School, West Roxbury, MA, teacher, 1955-56; Melbourne Grammar School, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, teacher, 1958; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, assistant professor of education, 1961-64, dean of Faculty of Education, 1964-72; Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, headmaster, 1972-81; chairman of a study of high schools, 1981-84; Brown University, Providence, RI, professor of education, 1984-96, became professor emeritus. Head of Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School, for one year. Visiting professor at University of Bristol, 1971, and Brown University, 1983. Member of visiting committee, Yale College and Harvard College. Founder and Chair Emeritus, Coalition of Essential Schools, 1983—; founding director, Annenberg Institute for School Reform. Military service: U.S. Army, Field Artillery, 1953-55.
American Historical Association, National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Ped.D., Lawrence University, 1969; Guggenheim fellowship, 1971; Litt.D., Union College, 1972; LL.D., Connecticut College, 1984; President's Medal, Brown University, 1996.
(Editor) The Age of the Academies, Teachers College Press (New York, NY), 1964.
(Editor) Religion and Public Education, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1967, revised edition, University Press of America (Washington, DC), 1982.
Places for Learning, Places for Joy: Speculations on American School Reform, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1973.
(Coauthor, with wife, Nancy Faust Sizer) To Ornament Their Minds: Sarah Pierce's Litchfield Female Academy, 1792-1833, Litchfield Historical Society (Litchfield, CT), 1993.
(Coauthor, with wife, Nancy Faust Sizer) The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1999.
(With Deborah Meier and Nancy Faust Sizer) Keeping School: Letters to Families from Principals of Two Small Schools, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2004.
The Red Pencil: Convictions from Experience in Education, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2004.
"HORACE" TRILOGY ON EDUCATIONAL REFORM
Horace's Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1984, published as Horace's Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School, with a New Preface, 2004.
Horace's School: Redesigning the American High School, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1992.
Horace's Hope: What Works for the American High School, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1996.
Contributor to Saturday Review, Psychology Today, and other journals.
Theodore R. Sizer is one of the leading educational reformers in the United States. He has served as the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, was coprincipal with his wife, Nancy Faust Sizer, at the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential High School, and founded the Coalition of Essential Schools. He has studied the design and development of American educational methods since the 1970s, working with hundreds of high schools. Tradition is strong in the world of education, but Sizer recommends breaking away from long-held structures when necessary. As an example, he points to the curriculum deemed essential by Charles William Eliot, the president of Harvard University, in 1893. Eliot divided subjects into the areas of English, language, science, social studies, and mathematics, and his divisions are still used today. Sizer points out, however, that these subject terms are not well-defined and fail to take into account many aspects of our current world. Sizer advocates bold changes in the educational system that would provide for the creation of so-called Essential Schools. These institutions would, among other things, foster a strong sense of community within the school. Essential Schools would focus intensely on core subjects, with the goal of covering them in much greater depth than do conventional schools. Sizer feels that the modern emphasis on standardized testing leads to a superficial treatment of too many topics.
His thoughts and reflections about education, written after almost five decades of involvement with U.S. schools, are published in The Red Pencil: Convictions from Experience in Education. In this book, Sizer expresses frustration with three main failings within the public school system. The first is the lack of discussion of the difference between teaching and learning. The structure of the educational system and the issue of authority are also discussed by Sizer. His book is "pleasantly free of weighty pedagogical terminology," stated a Publishers Weekly writer, and is "an enlightening book," even if his material may already be familiar to those in the field of education.
Sizer elaborated on some of his educational theories in a three-book series, Horace's Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School, Horace's School: Redesigning the American High School, and Horace's Hope: What Works for the American High School. The books discussed real educational topics, trends, and statistics, but within the fictional context of a story about an English teacher named Horace Smith (a composite figure drawn from several educators Sizer has known), who is a leader in redesigning the system at Franklin High School. To do so, Horace applies the concepts of Sizer's Essential Schools. Reviewing Horace's School, a Publishers Weekly writer deemed it "required reading for all involved in school-based decision-making." Horace's Hope confronts the reality that effecting change in the school system is extremely difficult. The tone is "somber," according to Nan S. Spalding in School Administrator. Ray Olson, reviewing Horace's Hope for Booklist, found that Sizer's ideas "give great hope" for the future of education.
In The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract, Sizer and his coauthor and wife, Nancy Faust Sizer, state that the moral examples students see in their teachers, whether positive or negative, are very powerful. Students also learn important lessons not found in the official curricula when they are confronted with inconsistent school policies, routines that are only designed to efficiently manage large groups, and the reality of wealthy children being favored with better programs than poor children. The overall message is that students will learn from what they see, and the adults in charge of schools must seriously think about what lessons they want to impart. Art Stellar, reviewing the book for School Administrator, commented: "Some will abuse this work by trying to exploit segments to support a pet theory. Most will appreciate the luxury of the journey. A few will grasp the essence."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 1996, Ray Olson, review of Horace's Hope: What Works for the American High School, p. 188.
Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, October 1, 1992, review of Horace's School: Redesigning the American High School, p. 3; October 1, 1996, review of Horace's Hope, p. 6.
Childhood Education, September 22, 2006, Staci A. Ma, review of The Red Pencil: Convictions from Experience in Education, p. 55.
Horace, November, 1989, Kathleen Cushman, interview with Theodore Sizer.
NEA Today, March 1, 1992, Doug Tuthill, review of Horace's School, p. 27.
Newsweek, October 7, 1996, Barbara Kantrowitz, review of Horace's Hope, p. 86.
Publishers Weekly, November 29, 1991, review of Horace's School, p. 37; June 27, 1994, review of How Schools Change: Lessons from Three Communities, p. 62; July 1, 1996, review of Horace's Hope, p. 50; August 16, 1999, review of The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract, p. 71; August 23, 2004, review of The Red Pencil, p. 52.
School Administrator, May 1, 1997, Nan S. Spalding, review of Horace's Hope, p. 49; August 1, 2000, Art Stellar, review of The Students Are Watching, p. 57; January 1, 2005, William J. Leary, review of Keeping School, p. 49.
Agency for Instructional Technology Web site, http://www.ait.net/ (May 28, 2008), Carole Novak, interview with Theodore R. Sizer.
Brown University Web site, http://www.brown.edu/ (May 2, 2008), biographical information about Theodore R. Sizer.
Coalition of Essential Schools National Office Web site, http://www.essentialschools.org/ (May 2, 2008), biographical information about Theodore R. Sizer.