Public Schools and American Democracy: Why do we have public schools? Why have we lost faith?

Spring 2018 Public Lecture Series

Why do we have public schools? What do we want from them? At a time when Americans seem to be hopelessly divided, Western Washington University Professor and Chair of History Johann Neem asks us to take stock. Drawing on his new book, Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017), Neem will explore the historic purposes for the development of public education—educating citizens, developing human capabilities, and forging a nation—in order to raise questions concerning whether or not these purposes continue to guide our educational institutions and why we seem to be losing faith in them.

Free and open to the public, Prof. Neem’s lecture will take place on February 15, 2018, at 5:30pm in Jesse Hall 410.


Johann Neem received his A.B. from Brown University and his Ph.D. from University of Virginia, and he currently serves as Professor and Chair of History at Western Washington University and as a Senior Fellow at UVa’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. He is the author of Creating a Nation of Joiners: Democracy and Civil Society in Early National Massachusetts (Harvard University Press, 2008) and Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017), and his scholarship has appeared in Inside Higher Education, History and Theory, the Journal of the Early Republic, and the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, among other places.