Hanna, Paul R. (1902–1988)

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HANNA, PAUL R. (19021988)

An educator initially trained in elementary education, Paul R. Hanna gained his greatest fame in both social studies and international education.

Hanna was born in Sioux City, Iowa, his father a Methodist minister and his mother the daughter of Swiss immigrants. He entered Hamline College (now Hamline University), and upon graduation in 1924 he enrolled at Teachers College, Columbia, from which he earned an M.A. in 1925 and a Ph.D. in 1929. He served as superintendent of schools in West Winfield, New York, from 1926 through 1927. On the faculty of Teachers College from 1929 through 1934, Hanna then joined the Stanford University School of Education, from whence he retired in 1967, having served a brief term as acting dean in 1963. After retiring he was a senior research associate at the Stanford-based Hoover Institution for War, Revolution and Peace and he continued his extensive work in international education, which he had begun while at Stanford.

Hanna was a pioneer in a number of areas of school curriculum. In the 1930s he explored the notion of the expanding environments model for elementary social studies, and beginning in the 1950s he popularized this model through his editing and writing of the Scott Foresman social studies textbook series. Hanna initiated a strong research component that focused on generalizations identified from the social sciences that could be used as a content base for the series. This was an issue first broached by the American Progressive educator Harold Rugg in the 1920s and reappears today in the demands for curricular standards in history and the various social sciences. He explored the notion of what is now called service learning for young people. With his wife, Jean, Hanna also produced some of the most popular spelling series for school use. These books were based on research that Paul and Jean Hanna did within and outside schools. Hanna's elementary social studies periodical series, Building America (coproduced and written with James Mendenhall), was revolutionary in its approach to topics, reflecting contemporary social concerns. These monthly picture magazines attempted to present what made such issues so important to Americans. Late in life Hanna returned to the social studies as the topic of his writing.

Hanna was also committed to and instrumental in developing international education. Hanna pursued understanding of international issues through education, serving in Latin America in 1940 through 1941 within the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs Office. Following World War II he was one of a team of educational experts that served in Germany to advise the Office of Military Government for Germany on educational affairs. Hanna was appointed in 1948 as an elementary education and teacher education specialist with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's educational mission to the Philippines, ending his term in the summer of 1949. He returned in 1952 as a director of education for the Mutual Security Agency's mission to that country, serving to June of 1953. He also traveled on missions to Burma, the Canal Zone, and Yugoslavia, eventually becoming the founder of a degree program in international education in 1952. This later evolved into the Stanford International Development Education Center (SIDEC), which includes many of the world's educational leaders as alumni.

In his last years Paul Hanna became more active with the Hoover Institution, and he and his wife founded the Paul and Jean Hanna Collection on the Role of Education in the Twentieth Century with a large financial gift in the late 1970s. They continued to add to the gift, and Hanna traveled across the country soliciting materials for the collection. The collection publishes periodic guides and thus is accessible to scholars worldwide.

See also: Social Studies Education.


Baskerville, Roger, and Sesow, William. 1976. "In Defense of Hanna and the 'Expanding Communities Approach to Social Studies."' Theory and Research in Social Education 4 (1):2032.

Gill, Martin. 1974. "Paul R. Hanna: The Evolution of an Elementary Social Studies Textbook Series." Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University.

Hanna, Paul. 1936. Youth Serves the Community. New York: Appleton-Century.

Hanna, Paul. 1966. Geography in the Teaching of Social Studies. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

Hanna, Paul. 1986. Assuring Quality for the Social Studies in Our Schools. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.

Hanna, Paul, and Hanna, Jean. 1956. Building Spelling Power. Chicago: Scott Foresman.

Newmann, Robert E., Jr. 1961. "History of a Civic Education Project Implementing the Social-Problems Technique of Instruction." Ph.D. diss., Stanford University.

Stallones, Jared R. 1999. "The Life and Work of Paul R. Hanna." Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Austin.

Murry Nelson