From "Backwardness" to "At-Risk"

Childhood Learning Difficulties and the Contradictions of School Reform

By Barry M. Franklin

Subjects: Early Childhood Studies
Series: SUNY series, Youth Social Services, Schooling, and Public Policy
Paperback : 9780791419083, 208 pages, July 1994
Hardcover : 9780791419076, 208 pages, July 1994

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Table of contents

Foreword by William J. Reese



1.   Learning Difficulties and the American Public School: A Conceptual Framework

2.   Educating Atlanta's Backward Children, 1898–1924

3.   From Backwardness to L. D.: Medicalizing the Discourse of Learning Difficulties

4.   Private Philanthropy and the Education of Children with Learning Difficulties: From the Junior League School for Speech Correction to Whittaker Center

5.   The Struggle for School Reform in Minneapolis:Building Public School Programs for Low-Achieving Youth, 1930–1970

Epilogue: At-Risk Children and the Common School Ideal


Bibliographical Note



This book examines the joint effort of twentieth-century public school administrators and private philanthropy to initiate reforms to provide for children with learning difficulties. The author explores the development of these reforms from the establishment of special classes for backward children at the beginning of the century to the creation of programs for learning disabled children. He considers what this history tells us about current efforts to provide for at-risk students. He looks at both the way school administrators conceptualized childhood learning difficulties and the institutional arrangements which they introduced to accommodate these students, and pays particular attention to the preference of school administrators throughout this century for accommodating low achieving children in segregated classes and programs.

Barry M. Franklin is Associate Professor of Education in the School of Education at Kennesaw State College. He is the author of Building the American Community: The School Curriculum and the Search for Social Control and is the editor of Learning Disability: Dissenting Essays.


"Barry M. Franklin's history of low-achieving, troubled, innocent children is sometimes chilling. For all their ostensible attempts to help children, America's public schools have frequently clipped the wings of youth. With a poet's eye but historian's sensibility, Franklin deftly recovers missing pages of the past. He provides the reader with valuable historical perspective on current policy debates on at-risk children. " — From the Foreword by William J. Reese