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Harry S. Broudy (1905–1998)

Relatively late in a career that spanned seven decades of academic writing and public speaking, Harry S. Broudy became in his time a prominent philosopher of education in the United States. He achieved this status in part by writing and speaking to many audiences about popular educational debates of the day, including the purposes and practices of general education, teacher education, aesthetic education, and democratic education in a post–World War II society.

Broudy was born in Filipowa, Poland, in 1905 and in 1912 came to the United States with his family, settling in Milford, Massachusetts. Broudy attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology before graduating from Boston University in 1929 with a bachelor's degree in Germanic literature and philosophy. At Harvard, where he completed his master's and doctorate of philosophy degrees, Broudy read Heidegger and Kierkegaard in German and Bergson in French. Studying with William E. Hocking, C. I. Lewis, Alfred North Whitehead, and John Wild, among others, Broudy completed his Ph.D. dissertation, "The Metaphysical Presuppositions of Existence," in 1935.

After a brief period working in the Massachusetts Commonwealth Department of Education, Broudy began his academic career in 1937, teaching the philosophy of education at North Adams State Teachers College. From there he moved to Framingham State Teachers College in 1949, then on to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1957. Although he had already achieved national stature in philosophy of education circles and had become president of the Philosophy of Education Society in 1953, his move to Illinois marked the beginning of a three-decade period in which Broudy's work was embraced by many audiences with a range of educational concerns.

Though he formally retired from the University of Illinois in 1974, Broudy continued teaching, advising students, serving on university committees, and writing. By the time of his last book, The Uses of Schooling (1988), Broudy had accepted many invitations to speak on various subjects in education, received three honorary doctoral degrees, had become a member of the National Academy of Education and a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and served as advisory board member and senior faculty member of the Getty Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts. In 1992, the Journal of Aesthetic Education devoted an entire issue to Broudy's contributions.

One remarkable feature of this extraordinary record of achievement and prominence is that Broudy accomplished it without aligning himself with successive trends in education or philosophy. When he completed his dissertation on existentialism in 1935, most philosophers of education were engaged in one or another brand of pragmatism. In the 1940s and 1950s, when early-twentieth-century ideas of differentiated curriculum were being solidified into a three-track schooling system that prepared children and youth for different places in American society, Broudy tried to articulate a democratic logic and practice of a common curriculum that was based on a general education for all students. When analytic philosophy began to dominate the fields of philosophy and philosophy of education in the 1960s and 1970s, Broudy's research program remained grounded in a classical realist epistemology and an appeal to what he saw as the logic of democracy.

Democracy demanded, he believed, a common general education for all, based on the academic disciplines, which required different ways of knowing the world and of verifying that knowledge. As Donald Vandenberg put it, "Broudy consistently distinguished between two questions, What is good knowledge? And what is knowledge good for? He relegated the first to specialists in the various disciplines and the second to define his own research program" (p. 7). Broudy's concerns about a common education in a democratic society were reflected throughout his career, beginning with Building a Philosophy of Education (1954) and extending through Democracy and Excellence in American Secondary Education (with B. Othanel Smith and Joe R. Burnett) (1964), The Real World of the Public Schools (1972), Truth and Credibility: The Citizen's Dilemma (1981) and The Uses of Schooling (1988). The Uses of Schooling is a concise, eloquent summation of Broudy's educational thought. It contends that the criteria used in determining and justifying general or liberal studies in schooling are misconceived and misapplied because the full range of the purpose of education in democratic life is not well understood. Understanding the uses of schooling requires attention to not only the usual "replicative" and "applicative" criteria of use, which attend to whether students can replicate and apply what they have learned; but also the "associative" and "interpretive" uses of knowledge as well. These uses require an "allusionary base" of information, understanding, and values, derived from the disciplines that inform experience with ideas that help each person represent predicaments and problems symbolically. Equipping each person with these symbolic tools, Broudy believed, should be an essential aim of schools in a democratic society.

Broudy's regard for the associative and interpretive functions of schooling is also related to other bodies of his considerable authorship. For example, Aesthetic Education in a Technological Society (1962) and Enlightened Cherishing: An Essay in Aesthetic Education (1972) illustrate how aesthetic studies, like general studies, tend to fall into the "nice, but not necessary" category of curriculum policy formation. Broudy pointed out that aesthetic studies provide the student with associative and interpretive experiences and develop the capacities for interpretation and informed criticism, as well as a richer vocabulary for self-expression.

Similarly, beginning with Case Studies for the Foundations of American Education (1960) and ending with "Case Studies–How and Why," Broudy for much of his career infused his extensive writing on teacher education with a vision of the use of cases in professional preparation. The cases Broudy described were designed for stimulating association, interpretation, and criticism, not simply for replication and application. Broudy believed that, compared to other professions, the absence of widely used case studies in teacher preparation was a considerable limitation on the profession.

It is likely that Broudy would be regarded in the early twenty-first century as a "public intellectual": one who sought to inform the social and educational debates of his day from a scholarly perspective, framed in language accessible to the nonspecialist.


BROUDY, HARRY S. 1961. Building a Philosophy of Education (1954), 2nd edition. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

BROUDY, HARRY S. 1988. The Uses of Schooling. New York: Routledge.

BROUDY, HARRY S.; PARSONS, MICHAEL J.; SNOOK, IVAN A.; and SZOKE, RONALD D. 1967. Philosophy of Education: An Organization of Topics and Selected Sources. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

BROUDY, HARRY S.; SMITH, B. OTHANEL; and BURNETT, JOE R. 1964. Democracy and Excellence in American Secondary Education. Chicago: Rand McNally.

JOURNAL OF AESTHETIC EDUCATION (Special Issue). 1992. "Essays in Honor of Harry S. Broudy." Journal of Aesthetic Education 26 (4).

MARGONIS, FRANK. 1986. "Harry Broudy's Defense of General Education." M.A. thesis, University of Illinois.

SYKES, GARY, and BIRD, TOM. 1992. "Teacher Education and the Case Idea." In Review of Research in Education, ed. Gerald Grant. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

VANDENBERG, DONALD. 1992. "Harry Broudy and Education for a Democratic Society." Journal of Aesthetic Education 26 (4):5–20.


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