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December 1, 2000
Vol. 58
No. 4

Books of the Century

    John Goodlad's A Place Called School completes the list.

      In the late 1960s, John Goodlad (b. 1920) and a group of researchers looked behind the classroom doors to determine which recent innovations had been integrated into educational practice. Observing elementary classrooms in 13 states, the research team began the work that was the precursor to A Place Called School (1984). Goodlad, professor and director of the Center for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington, and his team continued to gather data in the 1970s as they visited schools throughout the United States.
      After talking to and observing 17,163 students, 1,350 teachers, and 8,624 parents in more than 1,000 elementary and secondary classrooms, the researchers identified two perspectives for school reform. One perspective identified the individual school as the unit for improvement, and the other recognized caring—a display of concern and affection for schools by teachers, students, parents, and the general public—as a vital characteristic for reform.
      "Would we find today what was reported in A Place Called School?" Goodlad asks.Were we to set out today for the purpose we rejected previously—that is, deliberately selecting and studying schools thought to be good—we would find far more of them than we would have found in the late 1970s. However, were we to proceed as we did before in selecting a purposefully representative sample, we might have, by lucky chance, included in the sample a truly outstanding elementary school or two, but I would not place any bets on such a finding.I believe there was a surge toward schools connecting with children until a few years ago when test scores moved, once again, to the front as almost the only criterion for judging the goodness of schools. I cannot begin to imagine what the consequences to children will be when, once more, we begin to back away from the excesses of testing to which most school practice is now turning. . . . were we to go out again to conduct the same study, I doubt that our findings would be much different. And to place the blame on teachers for this state of affairs would be an enormous injustice. (2000, pp. 130–131)
      A contemporary rereading of A Place Called School reminds us that Goodlad's findings about practice—teachers lecturing, teachers out-talking students, students listening, and emotional flatness as a quality of the classroom experience—remain prevalent. Yet insights emerge as we rediscover Goodlad's call for the restructuring of our educational system.
      In Their Own Words

      In Their Own Words

      We have created a world in which there no longer is a common body of information that everyone must or can learn. The only hope for meeting the demands of the future is the development of people who are capable of assuming responsibility for their own needs. Schools should help every child to prepare for a world of rapid changes and unforeseeable demands in which continuing education throughout adult life should be a normal expectation.

      —John Goodlad

      A Place Called School


      Goodlad, J. I. (1984). A place called school: Prospects for the future. New York: McGraw-Hill.

      Goodlad, J. I. (2000). Reflections onA Place Called School. In C. Kridel (Ed.), Books of the century catalog. Columbia: University of South Carolina, Museum of Education.

      Craig Kridel has contributed to Educational Leadership.

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