The 1960s Education: Headline Makers

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The 1960s Education: Headline Makers

Jerome Bruner
James B. Conant
Erik Erikson
Arthur Jensen
Francis Keppel
B. F. Skinner

Jerome Bruner (1915–) In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jerome Bruner, founder and codirector of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Harvard, was involved in the study of how people learn. He and his colleagues explored perception, memory, and thinking, and how they interact during the learning process. Bruner's conclusion: "Any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development, providing attention is paid to the psychological development of the child." In other words, if teachers logically organize their teaching material with student developmental level in mind, all students can understand the true essence of a subject.

James B. Conant (1893–1978) During the 1960s James B. Conant researched and wrote about all aspects of the American educational system. He authored two books during the decade, Slums and the Suburbs (1961) and Shaping Educational Policy (1964). In these books he called for comprehensive high schools that would meet all students's needs, regardless of their abilities and goals. Conant believed that this was particularly important in a time when attempts were being made to eliminate educational inequities, especially in segregated school districts.

Erik Erikson (1902–1994) Erik Erikson is best-known for investigating the manner in which psychology influences the learning process. He charted the development of the individual from infancy and early childhood on, pointing out that each stage of a young person's life is associated with specific psychological struggles that affect the individual's personality. During the 1960s, Erikson conducted behavioral research and published such influential texts as Insight and Responsibility (1964) and Identity: Youth and Crisis (1968). Educational theory was significantly influenced by his studies of children and adolescents, his conviction that human potential was boundless, and his belief that adults could overcome their childhood hardships.

Arthur Jensen (1923–) Arthur Jensen, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, caused a firestorm in 1969 when he published a 123-page article in the Harvard Educational Review. Jensen alleged that genetics, rather than environment, was the key factor in determining an individual's IQ. Jensen offered a detailed study of how he came to this conclusion. Nonetheless, the popular press reduced his research to a flat statement: According to IQ test results, blacks were genetically inferior to whites. While education theorists appreciated the scholarly effort Jensen put into his study, almost everyone disagreed with his conclusion.

Francis Keppel (1916–1990) Francis Keppel established Harvard University's Graduate School of Education as a leader in innovative teacher training. He revised the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree, and originated the School and University Program for Research and Development (SUPRAD), which conducted experimental projects involving team teaching and other groundbreaking methods. In 1962, Keppel became the U.S. Commissioner of Education, and he labored to expand federal support of education. One of his most significant accomplishments involved the establishment of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a program that measures educational advances on a national level.

B. F. Skinner (1904–1990) B. F. Skinner devised new ways to teach everything from introductory psychology in college to introductory algebra in junior high schools based on his studies of how and why individuals act as they do, and his observation of the role of trial and error in education. Skinner was best known for his philosophy of human nature and learning. He believed learning consists of behavioral changes that occur as a result of a person's interaction with the properties and conditions of the physical and social environment. This contact shapes who we are and how we respond to the world.

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The 1960s Education: Headline Makers

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The 1960s Education: Headline Makers