Born Sept. 22, 1926, Manhattan, NYC
m. Laurel Jacobson, July 11, 1948 div. 1988
Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University, Graduate School of Education 1968-2010, where he established the doctoral program in Curriculum Studies.
Author of many books on education including Schools for Youth: Change and Challenge; Crusade for Democracy, and co-author with Laurel Tanner, History of the School Curriculum and Curriculum Development: Theory Into Practice, 4 editions. His writings have been translated into many languages.
Before joining Rutgers, served on the faculty of Purdue, Northwestern and City University of New York. He was awarded the Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in 1955 where he was named University Scholar. His earlier degrees were earned at Michigan State University. Has lectured at universities throughout the world including England, Germany, Czech Republic, People’s Republic of China, and Saudi Arabia. He is a former president of The John Dewey Society for the Study of Education and Culture, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Founding Fellow of the American Educational Research Association from which he was recipient of the Lifetime Advancement Award. He has served on several committees of the National Association of Secondary School Principals and The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Author of articles in the leading professional journals as well as The Atlantic, New York Times, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Education Week.
Is founding president of an educational foundation established in his name in 2010. The foundation has supported school projects engaging children and adolescents in hands-on learning experience. The Foundation has supported annual national conferences on education reform sponsored by the Bloustein School of Public Planning and Policy of Rutgers University , and has awarded research grants on school improvement, educational history, curriculum development, and medical education. As a popular critic of nationalizing reforms of U. S. schools legislated by both political parties, Tanner maintains that, from the time of the “crisis” of the Cold War to the current “crisis” of the alleged decline of U. S. hegemony over global economic markets, the public schools have been held scapegoat for the successive failures of government with the consequence that the schools have been forced to surrender democratic educational aims to narrow nationalistic aims. He draws a caricature of the national school-reform programs, including the high-stakes testing initiatives of Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” and of George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” taken together as “Race to the Top and Leave the Children Behind.”
Tanner contends that the putsch for early-childhood education stemming from Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty took a wrong turn from the start in seizing upon data going back to the 1920s declaring that 80 % of intelligence is developed by age 8. The consequence was that this claim became a doctrine with the conclusion that after age eight was too late. Hence both political parties ascribed to the doctrine that early-childhood education would be the “quick-fix” to close the widening gap in school achievement between children in poverty and middle-class children. Tanner maintains that the research on intelligence since the 1920s has revealed intelligence as a developmental process extending throughout the lifespan, while adolescence marks a critical stage for the development of hypothetical thinking for problem solving – the highest stage of intelligence for which there is no ceiling beyond creativity. But this development requires a rich and powerful school environment for ALL children and youth that reaches into the home. Further, Tanner points out that the 1920s was a time period when much of the research on intelligence was mechanistic and heavily based on eugenics, whereas the critical factor is environmental.
As with John Dewey, America’s greatest philosopher, Tanner believes that “No education – or anything else for that matter – is progressive unless it is making progress.”
Tanner’s comment on the election of Donald Trump: “I can’t wait to read his Farewell Address.” Tanner has been a member of the Democratic National Committee since 2005.