Ellwood Patterson Cubberley

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Ellwood Patterson Cubberley (June 6, 1868 – September 14, 1941) was an American educator and a pioneer in the field of educational administration. He spent most of his career as a professor and later dean in the Stanford Graduate School of Education in California.

Cubberley, who was born in Andrews, Indiana, was the son of Edwin Blanchard Cubberley[1] and Catherine C. Biles.[2] He graduated from Indiana University in 1891, and then served as president of Vincennes University from 1891 until 1896. On June 15, 1892 he married Helen Van Uxem,[3] a fellow student he had met at Indiana University. He was superintendent of schools in San Diego, California from 1896 until 1898. He joined the faculty of Stanford, then went to Columbia University where he earned a Ph.D. in 1905. He returned to the Stanford faculty in 1906 as a professor of education. He was the dean of the Stanford school of education from 1917 until he retired in 1933.


Cubberley published a total of 30 works during his life, including:

  • Syllabus of Lectures on the History of Education, 1902 online
  • Changing conceptions of education (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1909) online
  • Public Education in the United States, 1919 online
  • The history of education: Educational practice and progress considered as a phase of the development and spread of western civilization (Houghton Mifflin, 1920) online
  • Readings in the History of Education, 1920 online
  • A Brief History of Education, 1922 online
  • Public School Administration, 1922 online
  • Public Education in the United States, republished in 1947
  • State and county educational reorganization ; the revised constitution and school code of the state of Osceola, 1914 online


For much of the 20th century, the dominant historiography of schooling in America was exemplified by Cubberley. His many textbooks emphasized the rise of American education as a powerful force for literacy, democracy, and equal opportunity, and a firm basis for higher education and advanced research institutions. He advocated enlightenment and modernization over ignorance, cost-cutting, and traditionalism in which parents tried to block their children's intellectual access to the wider world. Teachers dedicated to the public interest, reformers with a wide vision, and public support from the civic-minded community were the heroes. The textbooks helped inspire students to become public school teachers and thereby fulfill their own civic mission.[4] Cubberley was perhaps the most significant theorist of educational administration of his day. At the outset of Cubberley's career, school administration had no theoretical or scientific basis. There were no formal textbooks from which to teach educational administration; educational administrators were expected to learn solely from experience. Indeed, educational administration posts were often political plums requiring little, if any, formal training in education. Most universities lacked education departments.

Cubberley pioneered the use of the school survey as an instrument to improve education, in his reports on the schools in Baltimore, Maryland; New York City; Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; and Salt Lake City, Utah. In conducting surveys, he applied an integrated theory of organization, administration, and teaching, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of individual schools. He used the latest statistical and quantitative methods. His surveys were significant steps down a new road toward improving school functions. Cubberley's work influenced the establishment of the factory model of curriculum implemented widely throughout North America well into the 21st century.

Cubberley's academic legacy has been controversial. Since his death in 1941, Cubberley's impact has been attacked, most memorably by Lawrence Cremin's The Wonderful World of Ellwood Patterson Cubberley (1965). Some academicians have used Cubberley's methodology as a cautionary tale and termed his approach anachronistic and evangelistic, and some of his administration stances have been attacked as sexist and autocratic.

The Ellwood Patterson Cubberley Papers, 1886-1965[5] (3.25 linear ft.) are housed in the Department of Special Collections and University Archives in the Stanford University Libraries.



  1. ^ Edwin Blanchard Cubberley (June 12, 1830 - December 10, 1905) - He was a pharmacist and dry goods merchant. Edwin married Catherine C. Biles on December 26, 1859 in New Hope, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
  2. ^ Catherine C. Biles (June 18, 1833 - October 28, 1915) - aka "Kate" Biles.
  3. ^ Helen Van Uxem (August 4, 1871 - January 25, 1952) - aka "Nettie" Van Uxem.
  4. ^ Lawrence A. Cremin, The Wonderful World of Ellwood Patterson Cubberley (1965)
  5. ^ Cubberley Papers
  6. ^ History of Cubberley Library
  7. ^ Cubberley Auditorium

Further reading[edit]

  • Bowles, Samuel, and Herbert Gintis, Let's Hear It for Ellwood Cubberly: A Response to Donald Light, The School Review, Vol. 85, No. 3 (May, 1977), pp. 473–476
  • Cremin, Lawrence. The Wonderful World of Ellwood Cubberley (1965).
  • Kelly, Matthew Gardner. "The mythology of schooling: the historiography of American and European education in comparative perspective." Paedagogica Historica 50.6 (2014): 756-773.
  • Lagemann, Ellen Condliffe. "Contested terrain: A history of education research in the United States, 1890–1990." Educational Researcher 26.9 (1997): 5-17.
  • Sears, Jesse Brundage, and Adin D. Henderson. Cubberley of Stanford and his contribution to American education (Stanford University Press, 1957)

External links[edit]