Zimmerman, Jonathan (L.) 1961-
ZIMMERMAN, Jonathan (L.) 1961-
PERSONAL: Born November 17, 1961, in Washington, DC; son of M. Paul (an attorney) and Margot Lurie (a family planning educator) Zimmerman; married Susan E. Coffin (a pediatrician), June 6, 1987; children: Sarah, Rebecca. Education: Columbia University, B.A. (urban studies), 1983; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1990, Ph.D. (history), 1993. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish.
CAREER: Educator and historian. South Burlington High School, South Burlington, VT, social studies teacher, 1986-87; Southeast Middle School, Baltimore, MD, social studies teacher, 1987-99; West Chester University, West Chester, PA, assistant professor of history, 1992-96; New York University, New York, NY, assistant, then associate professor of educational history, 1996—. Also served in Nepal with U.S. Peace Corps.
MEMBER: American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, History of Education Society (member, board of directors, 2002—) .
AWARDS, HONORS: Henry Barnard Prize, History of Education Society, 1991; New Scholar's Award, American Educational Research Association, 2001, for Distilling Democracy: Alcohol Education in America's Public Schools, 1880-1925; Outstanding Book Award, History of Education Society, 2003, for Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools.
Distilling Democracy: Alcohol Education in America'sPublic Schools, 1880-1925, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 1999.
Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
Contributor to journals, including Journal of American History; contributor of editorial columns to periodicals, including New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, New Republic, and U.S. News and World Report.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The book Educating the Globe: American Teachers in the American Century.
SIDELIGHTS: Years before Jonathan Zimmerman directed New York University's history of education program, he worked as a high school history teacher. Concern over the textbooks he was given as teaching tools prompted him to eventually write Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools. Addressing himself to the debates over the presentation of historical facts, epochs, and personalities, Zimmerman also reflects on the ongoing debate regarding the role of religious education within U.S. public schools.
Arguing that concerns over multicultural representations and ethnic and gender diversity have rendered much that is taught in modern history classes "an overwhelmingly positive, triumphalist—and dull—stew," Zimmerman maintains that curriculums based on social and political philosophies and world views also "undermine the political traditions protecting dissent and diversity," explained American Prospect contributor Peter Schrag, noting that minimizing the importance of such Western concepts as constitutionality and democracy discount the importance of these ideas in America's so-called "free" society. Noting that battles over prayer, creationism, sex education, and other religion-tinged issues have shown no signs of ceasing, Zimmerman traces the history behind the competing beliefs of both liberals and conservatives as they have evolved with regard to such issues. While he maintains in Whose America? that, as the founding fathers anticipated, "a healthy democracy requires citizens who have the skills and desire to make up their own minds—about evolution, history, and everything else," he also appears to disregard "a lot of things that most American schools have neither the political freedom nor the pedagogical capacity to implement," noted Schrag. In the Washington Monthly Andrew J. Rotherham praised the author's scholarship but took issue with Zimmerman's proposals to achieve detente in the culture wars, maintaining that, "as a practical matter, most combatants in today's school culture wars are not interested in compromise, nor do most see their claims as anything but absolute." In his review for Library Journal, Mark Alan Williams noted that Zimmerman, by locating competing points of view "within their historical context," is able to help readers gain "a deeper understanding of the issues and how they have influenced . . . public school instruction," while Schrag praised Whose America? as "even-handed."
In Distilling Democracy: Alcohol Education in America's Public Schools, 1880-1925, Zimmerman again takes a historical view of a contemporary issue. Focusing on Mary Hunt, a nineteenth-century activist who, believing in education rather than prohibition, led a movement called Scientific Temperance Instruction, he follows her effort to incorporate temperance teachings in public schools, noting that by 1890 a majority of states had signed on to her program. Although Hunt continued to wage her battle for several decades, friction with the leadership of the Women's Christian Temperance Union gradually derailed her efforts; still, Zimmerman notes, she was able to inspire "hundreds of thousands of Americans in a compelling dialogue about alcohol, expertise, and democracy." While praising Zimmerman's portrait of Hunt as a woman of "single-mindedness and determination," Journal of Studies on Alcohol contributor Gail Gleason Milgram added that little insight into Hunt's personal life is included.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Zimmerman, Jonathan, Distilling Democracy: AlcoholEducation in America's Public Schools, 1880-1925, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 1999.
Zimmerman, Jonathan, Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
American Prospect, March, 2003, Peter Schrag, "The Culture Brawl," p. 36.
Choice, September, 1999, S. L. Piott, review of Distilling Democracy, p. 220; February, 2003, M. Engel, review of Whose America?, p. 1035.
Journal of American History, June, 2000, Ian Tyrrell, review of Distilling Democracy, p. 248.
Journal of Studies on Alcohol, September, 2000, Gail Gleason Milgram, review of Distilling Democracy, p. 774.
Library Journal, August, 2002, Mark Alan Williams, review of Whose America?, p. 114.
Washington Monthly, October, 2002, Andrew J. Rotherham, review of Whose America?, p. 56.