Shaping the Culture of Schooling

The Rise of Outcome-Based Education

By Cheryl Taylor Desmond

Subjects: Education
Series: SUNY series, Education and Culture: Critical Factors in the Formation of Character and Community in American Life
Paperback : 9780791429563, 181 pages, July 1996
Hardcover : 9780791429556, 181 pages, July 1996

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Table of contents



1. Cui Bono?

2. The Endicott Johnson Ethos

3. Community Disequilibrium

4. A Daring New Vision

5. The Rigorous Wrestlers of Power

6. Praxis and Knowledge/Power

7. Outlawing the Bell-Shaped Curve

8. Leading

9. Learning-Teaching-Leading

10. The Work of Reforming Schools



Winner of the 1998 American Educational Studies Association Critics' Choice Titles

Focusing on the cultural history of the origins of outcome-based education (OBE), this book investigates the social and economic culture of Johnson City, New York, schools. OBE has often been proclaimed the salvation for ailing American schools and has spread to thousands of school districts throughout the United States. The reform has also been the lightning rod for fierce challenges from community members who oppose OBE's dismantling of the bell-shaped curve and its promotion of secular humanism.

The author uncovers the messy business of school change and its deep roots in the values of the local community and economy. Grounding the story historically and theoretically, Desmond analyzes the reshaping of the Johnson City schools from a production mill for blue collar workers to a development center of technologically minded, middle-class, well-educated citizens. She argues that the heart of successful, synergistic school reform lies in the consensus that children have unlimited learning capacity and a long-term moral leadership that is committed to caring, reciprocal relationships of power.

Cheryl Taylor Desmond is Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Foundations at Millersville University.


"Cheryl Taylor Desmond shows particular keenness in understanding the totality of school district institutionalism and cultural interdependence between the district and community. She has also selected significant concepts to explain the transformation process of a school district. Most importantly, the points raised regarding school reform as a process dependent on 'social-institutional contexts' and empowering leaders gives programmatic and quick-fixes in education new meaning." — Flora Ida Ortiz, University of California, Riverside