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Voices from the Past:
George S. Counts (1889–1974)

This 1’32” audio excerpt of George S. Counts’ presentation, “The Challenge of the Soviet Experiment,” was recorded in 1948 on a glass transcription taken from the third annual Boyd H. Bode Conference at Ohio State University. The recording was transferred to magnetic tape in 1986 by Mr. Harold R. Heckendorn, project recording engineer from Worthington, OH, as part of an audio archival program initiated and coordinated by the Museum of Education and funded in part by the Southern Regional Education Board. This excerpt stems from Counts’ life-long interest in Russia and the Soviet Union.


Voices from the Past
The intent of this website is not to introduce Counts’ ideas. He is widely published and his works, in addition to Dare the School Build a New Social Order?, should be read by all educators. In fact, Lawrence Cremin, George Counts’ “teaching assistant” at Teachers College, in correspondence with the Museum of Education identified six books as Counts’ most important before mentioning Dare the School. Actually, it is too bad that Counts’ versatility, from his sociological research in Chicago to his historical and political writings, is overshadowed by the popularity of this one pamphlet. Rather, the Voices from the Past exhibition provides an opportunity to hear and to feel the character of the individual through, in this case, his voice. With the Museum’s continuing efforts to introduce biographical research into the field of education, “the power of the voice” portrays much to the reader and to the scholar.

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A portion of this rare archival audio footage was originally presented publicly as a “soundsheet” in Teaching Education (Vol. 2, No. 2, Winter 1988, p. 46) to accompany an essay about Counts written by Lawrence Cremin and later published in Teachers and Mentors. Photographs and this audio excerpt are presented with permission from the Museum of Education and Ohio State University Archives and serve as a testimony and gesture of thanks to Dr. Raimund Goerler, University Archivist and Assistant Director of Ohio State University Libraries, who so graciously advised and helped the efforts of the Museum of Education from 1986-2010. Dr. Goerler’s work has been an inspiration for the Museum in its efforts to acquire and refresh audio and visual cultural material.


“Counts’ office was the perfect site for the Socratic teacher. The walls were crammed with books, pamphlets, and periodicals arranged on shelves that rose to the ceiling, while the tables held stacks of recent publications, especially newspapers and magazines. Counts worked at a rolltop desk, with pictures of Abraham Lincoln and John Dewey above it. He smoked incessantly, mostly a pipe and occasionally a cigar; the pipe seemed always to be going out, with the result that it was constantly being relighted. As one entered the office, Counts would swing away from his desk and turn in his swivel chair, rise, and warmly welcome his visitor.” Lawrence Cremin (1)

“In my experience, the conversation that followed was invariably an animated exchange of ideas and opinions, frequently punctuated by Counts’ reaching for a book or magazine or newspaper with the recommendation that I consult it as soon as possible for illumination. Counts seemed to me to have read everything on every side of every educational issue; and, as he made his recommendations, I would dutifully note them, with every expectation of turning to them promptly. But I never came close to catching up. The longer I knew him and the more we talked, the greater the gap between the burgeoning list and my actual achievement.” Lawrence Cremin (2)

1) Lawrence Cremin, “George S. Counts as a Teacher: A Reminiscence,” Teaching Education, Vol. 2, No. 2, Winter 1988, p. 29.
2) Lawrence Cremin, “George S. Counts as a Teacher: A Reminiscence,” in Teachers and Mentors, (C. Kridel, R. V. Bullough, P. Shaker, Eds.) (New York: Garland, 1996), pp. 238-239

Suggested Readings
George S. Counts, Dare the School Build a New Social Order? A Challenge to Teachers and to the Present Social Order (New York: The John Day Co., No. 11, 1932).
George S. Counts, The Social Foundations of Education (New York: Scribner's Sons, 1934).
George S. Counts, The Prospects of American Democracy (New York: John Day Co., 1938).
 Lawrence Cremin, “George S. Counts as a Teacher: A Reminiscence,” in Teachers and Mentors, (C. Kridel, R. V. Bullough, P. Shaker, Eds.) (New York: Garland, 1996), pp. 237-243.

The Ohio State University Archives Historical Recordings Project (RG 16/z), Tape 3B, 4A.
© The Ohio State University


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