Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Lawrence Arthur Cremin
Lawrence Arthur Cremin "When the Russians beat us into space, the public blamed the schools, not realizing that the only thing that had been proved was that their German scientists had gotten ahead of our German scientists."

Lawrence Arthur Cremin (1925–90)
MA 1947, PhD 1949, LittD (hon.) 1975
Faculty 1949–90

An educator, historian, author, and administrator, Lawrence Cremin helped shape Teachers College over four decades. Cremin broadened the study of American educational history beyond the school-centered analysis dominant in the 1940s by advocating a more comprehensive approach: examining the other agencies and institutions that educate children, integrating the study of education with other historical subfields, and comparing education across international boundaries. This interest led to his major work, a three-volume comparative history of education in the United States entitled American Education. The second volume, covering the period from 1783 to 1876, won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1981. In addition to scores of articles, Cremin wrote seven other books, including The Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876–1957, which won the 1962 Bancroft Prize in American history, and Popular Education and Its Discontents (1990). He also played a leading role in many professional, governmental, and philanthropic organizations, including the National Academy of Education, the U.S. Office of Education's Curriculum Improvement Panel, and the Carnegie Commission on the Education of Educators.

After receiving his PhD from Columbia in 1949, Cremin began teaching at Teachers College. In 1961, he became the Frederick A. P. Barnard Professor of Education and a member of Columbia's history department, an unusual dual role. He directed Teachers College's Institute of Philosophy and Politics of Education from 1965 until 1974, when he became the college's seventh president. His successor credits Cremin with saving the institution: "That TC exists today is wholly Larry's doing," said Arthur Levine in 1997. "He became president at a time in which the college's enrollment was declining dramatically and finances were moving substantially into the red. Had Larry not moved decisively and made some very difficult decisions, Teachers College's future was in serious doubt." Cremin established new centers, created new professorships, and raised much-needed funds, all while building on the College's existing strengths. He retired from the presidency in 1984 to return to teaching and research. In 1985, while remaining on the Columbia and Teachers College faculties, he assumed the presidency of the Spencer Foundation, a Chicago-based educational research organization.

Read more about Cremin in the Columbia Encyclopedia.

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