Learn: History of Education in America

While we don't often consider "learning" as "doing something", it's important that each of us understands how much education has changed in America. It's hard to debate what's wrong with the current system without understanding how much education has become a monopolistic system that hardly stands up to the educational performance of the past. To help you gain clarity and knowledge on this issue, we've put together five topic overviews that tell the story of education in America. 

The five overviews are listed below and trace the evolution of education in America from the colonial period to today. If you haven't already, go through each topic page and consider the quotes, charts, primary documents, analysis, and more. We all but guarantee that you will come away with a great appreciation for true education and a greater understanding of the problems inherent in the modern, progressive education model. 

Education in Colonial America
Education in Colonial America

Horace Mann and American Education Reform
Horace Mann and Education Reform 1840.jpeg


John Dewey, Pragmatism, and Progressive Education
John Dewey Progressive Education


Progressive Education Since World War II
Progressive Education since WWII


Cost of Public Education: Good Return on Investment?
Education Costs



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Quote Page

Commentary or Blog Post

"The latest report for the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indexes showed another small monthly gain in October for the 20-city index, up 0.37 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis or a gain of 0.05 percent when seasonal factors are not taken into account. On a year-over-year basis, prices are now down 7.3 percent and indexes for all 20 cities are shown below."...

David R. Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution and an associate professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He explains that in Washington and on Wall Street the claim that economic growth leads to an increase in inflation has...

Robert (Bob) D. McTeer is the former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Although so much liquidity has been pumped into the financial system, McTeers explains why he thinks that inflation has not accelerated beyond current levels and why, under...

"Panic is in the air as gasoline prices move above $4.00 per gallon. Politicians and pundits are rounding up the usual suspects, looking for someone or something to blame for this latest outrage to middle class family budgets. In a rare display of bipartisanship, President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner are both wringing their hands over the prospect of seeing their newly extended...

Arthur B. Laffer is an American supply-side economist. He served as a member of President Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board between 1981 and 1989. He is best known for the Laffer Curve, a curve illustrating that increases in the rate of taxation do not necessarily increase tax revenue....

William L. Anderson is an adjunct scholar with both the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland. In "Inflation as an Economic Drug," Anderson argues that, in cutting interest rates, the Fed is impeding...

Richman tackles the problem with inflation as income distribution. He argues that the early receivers of an inflated currency benefit the most and that these early receivers are the rich, not the poor.

According to Hummel and Richman, "Historically governments inflated their currencies because they benefited in various ways. For example, they spent the new money, gaining the lost by holders of the depreciating...

John H. Makin specializes in international finance and financial markets. He is a visiting scholar at AEI. In this article, Makin argues that it is better to risk higher inflation than it is to risk an episode of deflation. He examines three past crises - the Great Depression of the 1930s, the...

Allan Meltzer is widely considered to be one of the world's foremost experts on the development and applications of monetary policy. He served on the Council of Economic Advisors for both Presidents Kennedy and Reagan. Mr. Meltzer is currently working at Carnegie Mellon University's...

The Library of Economics & Liberty has a very good introduction to inflation. Various materials are available and are broken out according to the following sections:

"On this page:

A political writer for Spokane Daily Chronicle recounts the visit of Ronald Reagan, including his comments against inflation.

Expected inflation measures how much people expect the overall price level to change. In the long-run, people expect whatever inflation rate the Fed chooses to produce. Policy, therefore, needs to be "time consistent." In other words, if the public knows that it is in the interest...

"Government spending drives taxes, deficits, debt and inflation, so it’s at the core of our economic problems. What to do about runaway spending? The tendency is to imagine that it might be controlled by electing the right politicians, enacting a law like a balanced budget amendment, passing a spending limitation ballot initiative, establishing a super committee or coming up with some kind...

Howard Baetjer Jr. teaches economics at Towson University in Maryland. In this article, Mr. Baetjer explores the root cause of inflation: money supply.

Ebeling, the former president of Foundation for Economic Education, compares the current economic crisis to the Great Depression. He examines the monetary policies leading up to both crises, the thinking of the monetarists and Keynesians, as well as the results of those policies.

Here's an excerpt:...

In recent years, some commentators have worried that inflation might get too low. One reason why they worry is the danger of deflation.

Economists Ben S. Bernanke, Frederic S. Mishkin, and Adam S. Posen offer Alan Greenspan's successor some advice. Ben Bernanke, the first author of this article, was later nominated as Greenspan's...

"Moreover, Yellen does not sugar coat the grim jobs picture or the credit problems that lay ahead. Indeed what she is describing seem[s] more like an L-Shaped recession than a "U". In contrast, I often wonder if Bernanke really believes what he is saying or if he is simply trying to absolve himself of blame just as Greenspan does."

Chart or Graph

"A consequence of the Federal Reserve’s policy of easing was to put downward pressure on the value of the dollar."

"While some see a country on the verge of massive inflation when looking at the Federal Reserve's Adjusted Monetary Base, others would argue that the money being created in 2008-2011 is not circulating into the economy, but rather is remaining in the banks as reserves to shore up bank losses."

The graph above was produced by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank. It measures the growth of the monetary base between February 15, 1984 and September 21, 2011. It shows a massive expansion of the monetary base since the 2008 financial crisis.

"The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services."

Chart 1.6 from each year's report shows the percent increase in both CPI inflation and in core inflation between January 2000 and November 2008.

"The currency component of M1, sometimes called 'money stock currency,' is defined as currency in circulation outside the U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve Banks, and the vaults of depository institutions."

"The [...] chart shows the percentage changes in the past five years off the 2006 baseline. You can see gasoline at about 46% of distillates usage is the driver for the big drop in petroleum right now."

The resulting graph gives a viewer a very clear picture of the inflation of the housing bubble as well as the "pop" and subsequent decline in home prices.

"According to the agency's projections, the price index for personal consumption expenditures (PCE) will increase by 1.2 percent in 2012...."

"Since when is a 2% annual rise in prices stable? Here is a chart that shows what I mean."

As shown in the figure, when both aggregate supply and aggregate demand shift to the right, the price level rises.

"The … chart plots the dollar price of oil versus the price when indexed to the trade weighted value of the dollar."

The Producer Price Index for crude materials for further processing moved up 2.8 percent in September.

The Producer Price Index for finished goods rose 0.8 percent in September, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

"My experience suggests that if petroleum does not grow at least 0.8% year on year the economy is headed recessionary...."

"Gasoline usage history shows a small rise in '07, then a plunge in '08. Usage level for the next two years was flat, followed by a huge plunge now."

"Table 1.1 from the 2009 report records data on GDP, unemployment, and interest rates."

"Chart 1.6 from the 2009 report shows both the percent increase in CPI inflation and in core inflation between January 2000 and November 2008."

The chart above indicates that producer prices have quadrupled in less than forty years, while those same prices merely doubled in the preceding sixty years.

This chart compares the growth of inflation (red line) and real wages (blue line). Since going off the Gold Standard completely in 1971, inflation has skyrocketed and is beginning to outpace the growth of real wages.

The Phillips Curve is the short-run relationship between inflation and unemployment.

These results are also presented graphically. Figure 2 plots the price index on a linear scale. It clearly shows the rapid increase in prices that has occurred since the Second World War, though over-emphasises the rate at which this change has taken place, since the level of prices was already much higher compared to the 18th and 19th centuries.

"The UK consumer price index since 1930 – notice the effect of the high rates of inflation during the 1970s and the 1980s."

This is a graph that shows the usage trends of gasoline and petroleum between January 2007 and January 2012.

Analysis Report White Paper

Robert Mundell divides the twentieth century into three distinct parts. The first part, 1900-1933, focuses on the mismanagement of the gold standard. The second part, 1934-1971, deals with policy mix under the dollar standard, and the third part, 1972-1999, details inflation and the blossoming of supply-side economics.

Jeffrey M. Herbener is an American economist of the Austrian school. Mr. Herbener teaches economics at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. Herbener believes that freely fluctuating currencies have destabilized world markets by aggravating inflation. Monetary reform, he explains, should aim towards restoring the market economy in money.

Samuelson and Solow dubbed the negative association between inflation and unemployment the Phillips Curve. Samuelson and Solow suggested that the Phillips Curve held important lessons for policymakers. While the Phillips Curve is no longer relied upon in its current form, its important to read about its roots and influences.

Robert Mundell shows that, when the exchange rate is fixed, it is impossible to stabilize the economy using monetary policy. A government that wants to stabilize the economy must instead use fiscal policy. The government, however, has much more ability to use monetary policy if the country has a flexible, floating exchange rate.

F. A. Hayek is one of the most influential economists of the modern period. In 1974, Hayek shared the Nobel Prize in Economics with Gunnar Myrdal. He was also awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991. "Choice in Currency" is Hayek's classic paper on free banking. In it, he suggests introducing competition in currency as a means to stop inflation.

"This article presents a composite price index covering the period since 1750 which can be used for analyses of consumer price inflation, or the purchasing power of the pound, over long periods of time."

This report looks at the impact of the Federal Reserve's money supply increases on the price of oil.

This paper reexamines the implications for monetary policy of the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates in light of recent experience. The ZLB contributed little to the sharp output declines in many economies in 2008, but it is a significant factor slowing recovery.

"Economists use the term 'inflation' to denote an ongoing rise in the general level of prices quoted in units of money. With U.S. dollar prices rising, a one-dollar bill buys less each year. Inflation thus means an ongoing fall in the overall purchasing power of the monetary unit."

In a fractional reserve banking system, banks can influence the quantity of demand deposits in the economy and, therefore, the money supply. This booklet on money mechanics describes the basic process of money creation in a "fractional reserve" banking system.

According to the theory of rational expectations, people optimally use all the information they have when forecasting the future. In the short-run, however, monetary changes lead to unexpected fluctuations in output, prices, unemployment, and inflation.

"It is possible to distinguish at least three causal factors behind a general fall in prices. They are: supply-side deflation, price-wage rigidity deflation, and monetary deflation."

Milton Friedman is best known for his theoretical and empirical research on consumption analysis, monetary theory, and stabilization policy. His influential essay on the role of monetary policy contains sections on what money policy can do and on what monetary policy cannot do.


"A lecture by Professor Steven Horwitz on inflation from the Austrian school of economics perspective."

"Economics is the study of how society manages its scarce resources."

When Scrooge's nephews get a hold of Gyro's matter duplicator in "Dough Ray Me," they misuse the ray gun to duplicate their money and the consequences end up being disastrous.

While the video makes the point that easy money in the real world doesn't implode, some might say that eventually it does with deflation and the destruction of credit and asset values.

Milton Freidman's groundbreaking series, Free to Choose, premiered in the United States on January 11, 1980. Above all else, Free to Choose is about the interrelationship between personal, political, and economic freedom. It critiques interventionist government policies and highlights the costs they exact on personal freedom and economic efficiency.

"Dr. Steve Horwitz explains the cause and costs of inflation."

Primary Document

Each year, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors issues the Economic Report of the President, which details the nation's economic progress using text and data appendices. It reviews last year's economic activity, makes projections, and, based on the President's economic agenda,...

In 1980, the U.S. economy had an inflation rate of more than 13 percent and an unemployment rate of about 7 percent. Had Fed Chairman Paul Volcker not pursued a policy of disinflation, prices would have continued doubling almost every five years assuming that the...

Martin, who headed the Federal Reserve at the time of this speech, gives a brief history of the Federal Reserve system and why it was created, warns about an overreliance on the power of monetary policy, urges the preservation of individual liberties as one of the key principles for economic...

"During the meetings on inflation, I listened carefully to many valuable suggestions. Since the summit, I have evaluated literally hundreds of ideas, day and night.

My conclusions are very simply stated. There is only one point on which all advisers have agreed: We must whip inflation right now.


(Link takes you to an audio version of the speech.)

In closing the debate on the party platform at the Democratic National Convention in 1896, William Jennings Bryan's powerful words raised the crowd to a frenzy. Bryan eloquently attacked the gold standard, making a case for the free coinage of silver. This would have increased the amount of money in circulation, causing inflation. The...

In Friedman's most widely recognized book, Free to Choose, he presents a concise and detailed explanation of inflation, how it harms an economy, and how to cure it. He concludes the chapter with "five simple...

"The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.


The CPI reflects spending patterns for each of two population groups: all urban consumers and urban wage earners and clerical workers. The all urban consumer group represents about 87 percent of the total U.S....

Whole speech below:

"Since World War II, inflation--the apparently inexorable rise in the prices of goods and services--has been the bane of central bankers. Economists of various stripes have argued that inflation is the inevitable result of (pick your favorite) the abandonment of...

"The present work is a felicitous introduction to Mises' ideas. They are, of course, elaborated more fully in Human Action and his other scholarly works. Newcomers to his ideas would do well, however, to start with some of his simpler books such as Bureaucracy, or The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality. With this background, readers will find it easier to grasp the principles of the free market and...

Henry Hazlitt's classic primer outlines a straightforward and accessible portrayal of free-market economics. An unshackled market, Hazlitt says, is the only path to "full production".

"An almost hysterical antagonism toward the gold standard is one issue which unites statists of all persuasions. They seem to sense — perhaps more clearly and subtly than many consistent defenders of laissez-faire — that gold and economic freedom are inseparable, that the gold standard is an instrument of laissez-faire and that each implies and requires the other.

In order to understand...

"The return to sound money policies is of utmost importance. Without sound money there can be no economic recovery, no prosperity, no economic cooperation, no international division of labor, no unification. Sound money is the cornerstone of individual liberty. Sound money is metallic money. It is the gold standard."

Mises explained economic phenomena as the outcomes of countless conscious, purposive actions, choices, and preferences of individuals, each of whom was trying as best as he or she could ... to attain ... wants and ... avoid ... consequences.

"Although the gold standard could hardly be portrayed as having produced a period of price tranquility, it was the case that the price level in 1929 was not much different, on net, from what it had been in 1800. But, in the two decades following the abandonment of the gold standard in 1933, the consumer price index in the United States nearly doubled. And, in the four decades after that,...

"The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists."

"The Federal Reserve Board's statistical release entitled 'Money Stock Measures' (H.6) is released each Thursday, generally at 4:30 p.m., unless Thursday is a federal holiday, in which case the release is issued on Friday, generally at 4:30 p.m. The release provides information on the monetary aggregates and their components. The data on the monetary aggregates...

"The Producer Price Index for finished goods declined 0.1 percent in December, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Prices for finished goods moved up 0.3 percent in November and fell 0.3 percent in October. At the earlier stages of processing, the index for intermediate goods decreased 0.5 percent in December, and crude goods...

The Producer Price Index for finished goods rose 0.8 percent in September, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

According to Joe Weisenthal, this speech finds "Dallas Fed Chief Richard Fisher...warning of the impact of cash that's not being lent out, and what he sees is debt monetiziation -- the Federal Reserve financing the government's spending directly.

In his first speech to a joint session of Congress, President Obama outlined an ambitious agenda for "lasting prosperity" by way of increased federal government spending and tax credits.

"Each January, CBO prepares 'baseline' budget projections spanning the next 10 years. Those projections are not a forecast of future events; rather, they are intended to provide a benchmark against which potential policy changes can be measured. Therefore, as specified in law, those projections generally incorporate the assumption that current laws are implemented.

But substantial...

"Rapidly rising energy prices are imposing a significant burden on American families and business. Since the end of 2008, the price of oil (West Texas intermediate, Cushing) has increased by 150 percent from $42.40 to $115.84 per barrel. Consumers have also experienced a commensurate increase in the price paid at the pump for regular gasoline. The average retail price of gasoline has increased...

Mises argues that inflation will, of course, help business boom, but that the boom is artificial and will eventually collapse. Additionally, he reasons that simply lowering interest rates is not a good thing and that it distorts the market, that there are two classes of credit (Commodity and Circulation), and he discusses the function of prices, wage rates, and interest rates.