George S. Counts

George S. Counts books and biography


George Counts

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Born December 9, 1889
Baldwin City, Kansas, USA
Died September 1, 1974, age 85

George Sylvester Counts (b. 1889, d. 1974) was an American educator and influential education theorist.



An early proponent of the progressive education movement of John Dewey, Counts became its leading critic affiliated with the school of social reconstructivism in education. Counts is credited for influencing several subsequent theories, particularly critical pedagogy. Counts wrote dozens of important papers and 29 books about education. He was also highly active in politics as a leading advocate of teacher's unions, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, the founder of the New York State Liberal Party, and as a candidate for the U.S. Senate.


Counts graduated from Baker University in 1911. While attending graduate school at the University of Chicago in 1913, Counts was influenced by John Dewey and Francis W. Parker. During this time he was a student of Charles Hubbard Judd, a leading proponent of the science of education. Counts earned a doctorate in education at the University of Chicago in 1916. His experience studying sociology under Albion W. Small during this period is attributed for encouraging Counts to concentrate on the sociological dimension of educational research.[1] [2]


Counts' first position was head of the Department of Education at Delaware College, then as a professor at Harris Teachers College in 1918. Counts taught at the University of Washington in 1919, then Yale in 1920. In 1924 he published The Principles of Education, (1924) with J. Crosby Chapman. During this period Counts favored Dewey's progressive education model of child-centered learning, and this book provided a broad overview of education from that perspective.[3]

In 1926 Counts returned to the University of Chicago. The next year he began a remarkable tenure at Columbia University Teachers College. In 1930 Counts wrote American Road to Culture[4] a global perspective on education. In this book he identifies ten "controlling ideas" in U.S. education. Regarding this book's case about American schools, H. G. Wells said, "the complete ideological sterilization of the common schools of the Republic is demonstrated beyond question. The sterilization was deliberate."[5]

After publishing two comparative studies of the Soviet education system, The New Russian Primer. (1931) and The Soviet Challenge to America. (1931), Counts was invited to address to the Progressive Education Association. His papers, delivered over three separate speeches, formed the core of the book, Dare the School Build a New Social Order, published in 1932.[6] Counts provides a clear examine of the cultural, social and political purposes of education, and proponents the deliberate examination and navigation of teaching for political purposes.[7]

In his address Counts proposes that teachers "dare build a new social order" through a complex, but definitely possible, process.[8] He explained that only through schooling could students be educated for a life in a world transformed by massive changes in science, industry, and technology. Counts insisted that responsible educators "cannot evade the responsibility of participating actively in the task of reconstituting the democratic tradition and of thus working positively toward a new society."[9]

Counts' address to the PEA and the subsequent publication put him in the forefront of the social reconstructionism movement in education.[10] Conservative educators attacked his premise, and progressive educators recoiled at his criticism of their practices.

After this period, Counts continued teaching at Columbia. His other books include The Social Foundations of Education (1934); The Prospects of American Democracy (1938); The Country of the Blind (1949), and; Education and American Civilization (1952). In 1956 he retired from Columbia University Teachers College.

After retirement Counts served as a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Michigan State University and Southern Illinois University. His final publications included Education and the Foundations of Human Freedom (1963) and School and Society in Chicago (1971).[11]

Counts continues to draw support[12] and criticism[13] from modern educators.


From 1942 to 1944 Counts served as New York State chairman of the American Labor Party, and after he established the Liberal Party in New York, he ran as its candidate for the United State Senate in 1952. Counts was the chairman of that party from 1954 to 1959. He was a member of the National Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1940 to 1973, and was President of the American Federation of Teachers from 1939 to 1942.[14]

Bibliography of writings on Counts

  • Austin, J. George Counts at Teachers College, 1927-1941;: A study in unfulfilled expectations.
  • Braun, R. (2002) Teachers and Power. Touchstone Publishers.
  • Berube, M. (1988) Teacher Politics. Greenwood Press.
  • Cremin, L.A. (1964) The transformation of the American school: Progressivism in American education 1876–1957. New York: Vintage.
  • Gutek, G. (1970) The Educational Theory George S. Counts. Ohio: Ohio State University Press.
  • Ornstein, A, & Levine, D. (1993) Foundations of Education. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Sheerin, W. (1976) "Educational Scholarship and the Legacy of George S. Counts," Educational Theory 26(1), 107–112.
  • Dennis, L. (1990) George S. Counts and Charles A. Beard: Collaborators for Change. (SUNY Series in the Philosophy of Education). State Univ of New York Press.

See also

  • Harold Rugg
  • Theodore Brameld
  • Charles Beard
  • Critical theory


  1. ^ Gutek, G. (1970) The Educational Theory George S. Counts. Ohio: Ohio State University Press.
  2. ^ Jupp, J. (nd) "George Counts," Kappa Delta Pi.
  3. ^ Teeter, C. (nd) George Counts History of Notre Dame website.
  4. ^ Counts, G. (1930) American Road to Culture. New York: John Day Company.
  5. ^ "Chapter 2. The Sloughing of the Old Educational Tradition" in Wells, H.G. (1933) The Shape of Things to Come. Penguin.
  6. ^ Counts, G.S. (1932) Dare the school build a new social order? New York: John Day Company.
  7. ^ Counts, G.S. (1932) "Dare progressive education be progressive?" Progressive Education 4(9).
  8. ^ Aubrey, R. (1984) "Reform in Schooling: Four Proposals on an Educational Quest," Journal of Counseling & Development. 63(4) p204.
  9. ^ Counts (1933)
  10. ^ Cohen, L. (1999)Section III - Philosophical Perspectives in Education: Part 3. Educational Philosophies. Oklahoma State University School of Education.
  11. ^ Counts, G. (1971) School and Society in Chicago. (American Education: Its Men and Ideas Series.) Arno Press.
  12. ^ Wood, G. (2005) Time to Learn, Second Edition: How to Create High Schools That Serve All Students. Heinemann Press.
  13. ^ Haynes, J. & Klehr, H. In Denial: Historians, Communism & Espionage. Encounter Books.
  14. ^ Crutchfield, C. (n.d.) George Sylvester Counts

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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