In the Crossfire: Marcus Foster and the Troubled History of American School Reform

. September 2012. 352p. 978-0-81224-435-9. 34.95.
Marcus Foster is not as well known in education circles as Horace Mann, Maria Montessori, or Benjamin Bloom. Through this work, Spencer (education, Ursinus Coll.) details Foster’s role in education, from his early career as a teacher in Philadelphia through his rise to superintendent of Oakland Public Schools. The author demonstrates that, in addition to his charm and charisma, Foster’s success lay in his ability to recognize the good in various sides of an issue and his unwillingness to settle for less than the best for all students. Compensatory education, school-community relations, and shared accountability were methods that worked and were popular, but also caused friction and led to his assassination in 1973 by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, who mistakenly believed that Foster supported a controversial plan to require student identification cards in Oakland schools.
VERDICT This is a fascinating look into one of education’s more successful but less prominent figures, and will find an audience with educators, historians, and the general public.
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