William Bagley (educator)

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William Chandler Bagley (March 15, 1874, in Detroit – July 1, 1946, in New York City), an American educator and editor, was born in Detroit, United States. He graduated in 1895 from Michigan State Agricultural College, currently called Michigan State University; completed M.S., in 1898, from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1898; and was awarded Ph.D. by Cornell University in 1900.

He taught in elementary schools before becoming (1908) professor of education at the University of Illinois, where he served as the director of the School of Education from 1908 until 1917. He was professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia, from 1917 to 1940. An opponent of pragmatism and progressive education, Bagley insisted on the value of knowledge for its own sake, not merely as an instrument, and he criticized his colleagues for their failure to emphasize systematic study of academic subjects. Of his many works, Education and Emergent Man (1934) contains the clearest exposition of his educational philosophy. His other writings include:

A champion of educational essentialism, Bagley is known for saying, "gripping and enduring interests frequently grow out of initial learning efforts that are not appealing or attractive."

Bagley was editor in chief of the Journal of the National Education Association (1920-1925) and School and Society (1939-1946), which he founded in 1915.


  • See biographies by F. B. Stratemeyer (1939) and I. L. Kandel (1961).
  • For the definitive biography of Bagley, see J. Wesley Null, A Disciplined Progressive Educator: The Life and Career of William Chandler Bagley (New York: Peter Lang, 2003).
  • For an anthology that includes many of Bagley's published writings, see J. Wesley Null and Diane Ravitch, Forgotten Heroes of American Education: The Great Tradition of Teaching Teachers (Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing, 2006).

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