William Holmes Mcguffey Essay

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William Holmes McGuffey was the author of the McGuffey Readers (their unofficial title), which epitomized the transformation of school reading texts over the first third of the nineteenth century. Designed to replace spelling books as the child’s introduction to reading, they were child-friendly, featuring large type, numerous illustrations, and short tales about children in familiar settings. Over time, they have sold some 135 million individual copies.

Born in Washington, Pennsylvania, McGuffey attended Washington College and then went on to teach Latin and Greek at Miami University, Ohio, from 1826 to 1836, becoming active in midwestern educational circles that included such reformers as the textbook writer Albert Picket and Alexander Kinmont.

In 1836, Truman and Smith published McGuffey’s First Eclectic Reader and Second Eclectic Reader, soon issuing four additional graded readers. Their comprehensibility to children, McGuffey’s midwestern location, and the publishers’ excellent marketing contributed to their great success. Although McGuffey’s association with the series had ceased by 1843, the readers dominated the market in the second half of the nineteenth century. They were constantly revised by their publishers and are still in print.

McGuffey’s early books borrowed heavily from competitors: McGuffey and his publisher had to settle out of court a suit brought by the textbook author Samuel Worcester and his publisher. McGuffey finished his career at the University of Virginia (1845–1873), where he was a professor of moral philosophy.


  1. Sullivan, D. P. (1994). William Holmes McGuffey: Schoolmaster to the nation. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
  2. Vail, H. H. (1911). A history of the McGuffey Readers. Cleveland, OH: Burrows Brothers.

Peter Mclaren

Peter McLaren, Professor of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles, is a leading educational theorist who, since the 1980s, has played a central role in the development of critical pedagogy worldwide and the organization of what he terms the “educational left.” Tremendously prolific as an author, and known for his virtuosic rhetoric and conceptual imagination, McLaren has made wide-ranging contributions over the course of his career to myriad educational discourses including critical ethnography and qualitative research, educational policy debates, ritual and performance studies, literacy theory, multiculturalism and the development of postcolonial pedagogy, cultural studies, critical media pedagogy, and curriculum studies, as well as work on globalization in education.

McLaren spent much of his early career in founding what he terms critical, or resistance, postmodernism in education through the deployment of novel syntheses of Frankfurt and Birmingham School critical theory, French poststructuralism, the Freirean and Deweyean philosophic traditions, and other radical ideas. Since 1994, he has turned toward a more specifically Marxist humanist analysis that seeks to illuminate the crucial function played by political economy and the relations of production in blocking truly democratic forms of schooling, culture, and general politics across society.

Although his work since the later 1990s should be understood as an evolution, and not rejection, of his earlier work, McLaren has become an outspoken critic of scholars’ wide reliance upon faddish forms of postmodernism, which he believes often result in an inattention to the underlying reality of economic exploitation or unwittingly play into Rightist political agendas through the postmodern desire to deconstruct and de-universalize all forms of macro social analysis and struggle.

Consequently, beginning with books such as Revolutionary Multiculturalism (1997) and Che Guevara, Paulo Freire and the Pedagogy of Revolution (2000), up to the more recent Capitalists and Conquerers (2005) and Life in Schools (5th ed., 2006), McLaren has sought to delineate a “revolutionary critical pedagogy” that challenges the domestication of critical work in education under capitalism, works internationally to organize resistance to imperialist and neoliberal policies, and attempts to resituate the necessity for sustained Marxist critique both popularly and within educational research proper.

Despite his radical goals, McLaren’s theories appear to be finding wide audiences. In 2005, La Fundacion McLaren de Pedagogía Critica was inaugurated to more widely establish knowledge of his work throughout Mexico as a basis for political action, and in 2006, the Venezuelan Ministry of Higher Education created the Peter McLaren Chair for the Study of Critical Pedagogy at the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela.


Pruyn, M., & Huerta-Charles, L. (2005). Teaching Peter McLaren: Paths of dissent. New York: Peter Lang.

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