Miller Center

Tracy Steffes

History, University of Chicago

A New Education for a Modern Age: National Reform, State-building, and the Transformation of American Schooling, 1890-1933

Steffes photo

Tracy Steffes is Associate Professor of Education and History at Brown University.

She teaches courses on American educational history. Her research interests include the development of American education system, citizenship, social and democratic theory and practice, state-building and social movements. 

Steffe's dissertation examined the national systematization of American education as public schooling was standardized across the United States from 1880 to 1930 and formulated into a single, hierarchical system. She argued that the expansion of state authority over schooling and the growth of state-level educational administration from 1880 to 1930 enabled a national-level coordination and systematization of schooling which amounted to the origins of a national education system. While the federal government played a role in creating this system, national systematization emerged through a complicated process of cooperation and competition between private and public actors at local, state, and national levels. As states assumed greater regulatory and oversight powers over local schools, they looked to one another and to national structures for guidance in shaping their school systems, cooperating in some respects and competing in others. American schooling, like American governance more generally, was powerfully shaped by traditions of federalism and private power and thus looked and operated very differently than national systems abroad.

Fellowship year: 2004

Mentor: Jonathan Zimmerman, New York University

Selected Recent Publications

School, Society, & State: A New Education to Govern Modern America, 1890-1940. University of Chicago Press, 2012

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