Education: Bank Street Experimenter

About the time that Lucy Sprague Mitchell came to live in Manhattan in 1913, the superintendent of New York City's public schools could boast, "I like to pause at 11 o'clock in the morning and reflect that all over New York thousands of pupils are reading the same page of the same book." School desks were screwed firmly to the floor, and pupils were expected to sit quietly at them. Teachers were supposed to know their subjects well, and little else besides.

To bright-eyed Lucy Mitchell (wife of the famed Columbia economist, Wesley C. Mitchell) such rigidity seemed all wrong. To do...

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