Social Education 57(1) pps. 48-49
©1993 National Council for the Social Studies
Saxe presents theses that are not always easy to accept. His division of the history of the field into thirds is generally agreed upon by scholars in this area. Similarly, his focus on the 1916 Committee on Social Studies is unobjectionable. His last thesis, which he labels the "twin paradox of liberal democratic education," however, is not convincingly developed and seems at times to be added on in a rough manner, perhaps because this work grew from a recent dissertation rather than from the research and experiences of toiling in the field.
Saxe hopes to influence the social studies with this volume, and that may occur. The appendix (which constitutes more than one-third the length of the volume) includes much of what constituted the National Education Association Report on the Social Studies-the 1913 statement of the Chair, Thomas Jesse Jones, part of the 1915 Bulletin, "The Teaching of Community Civics," and most of the 1916 Bulletin, "The Social Studies in Secondary Schools."
Despite Saxe's title, this volume concentrates not on social studies in all schools, but on social studies in secondary schools. Concern for the social studies in elementary schools is lacking; the American Historical Association Committee of Eight on History in the Elementary School (1909) is completely ignored. The book does present an in-depth examination of the 1916 NEA Report, a search for the roots of social studies as a term, and some uneven examination of the field.
Saxe's work is well done, but his research and the implications thereof are damaged by a lack of archival source materials. For better or worse, Saxe has carried on his work in a library. That is not necessarily bad, but certainly limiting. It is surprising that a dissertation committee would not have insisted on examinations of NEA or NCSS archives or the papers of any number of individuals focused on in this topic. To view this as a history of the field despite its lack of such examination is to seriously question the respect for scholarship in the field.
Nevertheless, Saxe provides insights and heroes for researchers in the field. He draws on two outstanding dissertations in social studies that should be read and relied upon more-those of Agnew O. Roorbach (1937) and Howard R. Boozer (1960). Saxe also provides an assessment of David Snedden's work. Saxe clearly is smitten with Snedden and Dewey and presents their views clearly and sensibly.
In his second chapter, Saxe provides a worker-like examination of the Madison Conference of the Committee of Ten, but significant omissions, such as Sizer's Secondary Schools at the Turn of the Century (1964) (which was based on his dissertation examining that committee), various works by Nicholas Murray Butler, Edgar Wesley's history of the NEA (1957), and Henry Selmeier's dissertation (1948) on curriculum making by National Committee, are disturbing. Chapter 3 on the Committee of Seven (1899) largely relies on the committee report, and only the committee report, for information. Chapters 4 and 5 are uneven. The sociological analysis is shaky, and the use of historical sources leaves gaps in understanding. As noted, the last chapter is possibly the best; it offers a cogent assessment of the 1916 report.
Overall, Saxe's work often reads like the dissertation it grew from. The thesis could have used additional research and maturity before appearing in this form. It is here now, however, and despite its shortcomings, the book is the best, if not the only, assessment of this period of social studies in U.S. schools. It deserves to be read.
Murry R. Nelson
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania
The Dictionary of Contemporary Politics of Central America and the Caribbean, edited by Phil Gunson, Greg Chamberlain, and Andrew Thompson. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991. 397 pp. $45.00 hardback. Reviewed by Teresa Osborne.
Instructors teaching classes such as Global Studies or Current Issues likely find it difficult to become knowledgeable about so many areas of the world. Particularly, because political instability has spread through many nations, accurate reference works have become more difficult to maintain. For instructors examining Latin America, The Dictionary of Contemporary Politics of Central America and the Caribbean is an easily accessible and fairly thorough reference source.
Gunson, Chamberlain, and Thompson have gathered a great deal of information in this relatively small book. The dictionary entries, which make up the main portion of the book, offer information on people, organizations, and events within the world of contemporary politics, and historical background to help in examining these events. Entries provide succinct explanations and references to other related entries. Although the entries are not complete enough to adequately serve research needs, they are helpful in providing quick bits of information, including the place, time, and individuals involved in an organization or issue. In particular, the variety of political parties and organizations throughout time and within the many nations of this area of the world can become overwhelming. The Dictionary of Contemporary Politics allows for brief and to-the-point explanations, and therefore serves well as a companion resource.
In addition to individuals and organizations, individual nations are provided entries with basic country information including size, demographics, and economic indicators. A useful and interesting feature is the description of each country's political system and a list of political organizations. To assist further in researching countries, The Dictionary of Contemporary Politics also contains a listing of the dictionary entries divided according to nation. Furthermore, the book contains twenty pages of political maps of the area.
Entries are generally only a few paragraphs in length, with the longer ones running no more than three pages. As a single text, this would not be a complete resource. For anyone doing research in this area of the world, however, The Dictionary of Contemporary Politics of Central America and the Caribbean will provide at least basic information on the myriad of groups and individuals involved in Central America. Few sources can consider all of the places from Anguilla to the U.S. Virgin Islands in such a straightforward manner.
Reynolds High School
The Crisis of Leninism and the Decline of the Left: The Revolutions of 1989, edited by Daniel Chirot. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991. 245 pp. $14.95 paper. Reviewed by William W. Goetz.
Will 1989 ring out in classrooms as 1789 has for so many decades? This volume contains nine provocative and tightly crafted essays based on papers delivered by a diverse group of social scientists at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies of the University of Washington in 1990. It is an invaluable asset for social studies educators eager to sort out the extraordinary events surrounding that fateful year.
An apt example is the incisive and varied treatment of causation. W. W. Rostow ("Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union: A Technological Time Warp") attributes the demise of communism fundamentally to the absence of "technological absorptive capacity"-trained technicians, scientists, and managers that a stagnated economy could not provide (64). Daniel Chirot ("What Happened in Eastern Europe in 1989") carries this analysis further, arguing that the "moral rot" employed to mask the system's breakdown robbed the government of the "moral legitimacy" that sustains viable political institutions (20).
Ken Jowitt ("The Leninist Extinction") presents three "big causes": Khruschev's "demystifying" the party, Brezhnev's failure to follow up and empower the citizenry, and the emergence of Solidarity as the "most powerful democratic revolution since the French Revolution." He underscores the significance of the end of Leninism by labeling it the "mass extinction" of a species that will affect the life of the remaining species on the planet (76-77, 79). But it is left to Stephen E. Hanson ("Gorbachev: The Last True Leninist Believer") to probe the metaphysics of Marxism-Leninism and produce the most arresting and fundamental explanation. It was the failure of Gorbachev's theory of the "human factor"-concretized in perestroika-to create an "actualized and self-disciplined working class" that would resolve the conflict between Marx's transcendental vision of communism and "the day-to-day life" of the masses. It became all too clear that Marxism was "inherently unachievable" no matter how it was modified (49-50, 54).
If there is a dissident voice in these essays, it belongs to Bruce Cummings ("Illusion, Critique and Responsibility: The 'Revolution of '89' in West and East"). In a provocative, nuanced, and sometimes angry analysis, he takes the Left to task for not recognizing that "party hacks" were turning Marx's humanist message into "the nightmare of Stalinism" and the Right for believing that liberal capitalism has triumphed for all times (105). He suggests that the Marxist critique of capitalism is still valuable.
The failed revolution of 1989 is addressed by Elizabeth J. Perry ("Intellectuals and Tiananmen") and Nicholas R. Lardy ("Is China Different? The Fate of Economic Reform"). Perry faults the "urban intellectuals," determined to maintain their special connection to the state, for acting in an "exclusionist style of protest" by not accepting assistance from peasants and entrepreneurs (143). Lardy's description of the introduction of market economics in China to bolster an authoritarian political regime is both enlightening and fascinating-it deserves further analysis.
Finally, the reader is taken on a whirlwind tour of six continents by Seymour Martin Lipset ("No Third Way: A Comparative Perspective on the Left") who documents with imposing detail (and some satisfaction) how socialists and liberals on six continents are cutting taxes, privatizing, and abandoning planned economies. The only exception, he claims, is the liberal Democratic party in the United States: a position that will not go unchallenged.
The authors also share concerns, speculation, and policy recommendations for the future that should assist in designing strategies for the higher level of the taxonomy. Rostow argues forcefully for "external assistance" to the former Communist nations (66); David Calleo ("American National Interest and the New Europe: The Millenium Has Not Arrived") warns the United States against "a return to the hegemonic dreams of 1945" that its financial situation cannot support (168). Jowitt concludes that we are now in a "genesis environment" that contains "shocks" of unforeseeable dimensions (95) while Cummings reminds intellectuals not to lose their critical independence amidst the current ideological celebration. Lipset, surprisingly, concludes his essay with an abrupt warning that the triumph of capitalism could be of "short duration" since its "mundane irrationality" could spur a renewed search for some form of "community values" (219).
While this is recent history with a heavy dose of social science, it happily does not ignore the deeper past. Historical personalities from Metternich to Monet are revived and ideologies as diverse as medieval social theory and the New Left are seen in new contexts. Nor do the authors see the end of history, but rather the continuation of a history that is intrinsically unpredictable and often ironic. Reading this book will place educators in a unique position to establish for their students the profound significance of 1989.
William W. Goetz
William Paterson College
Wayne, New Jersey