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Ph.D., Harvard University
Professor, Philosophy of Education, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne Author of Building a Philosophy of Education (1961); Paradox and Promise: Essays on American Life and Education (1961); Democracy and Excellence in American Secondary Education: A Study in Curriculum Theory (1964); The Real World of Public Schools (1972); Truth and Credibility, The Citizen’s Dilemma (1981); The Uses of Schooling (1988).

Harry Samuel Broudy (1905–1998), a distinguished educator, scholar, and philosopher, as well as a prolific writer, often is identified as the most important philosopher of education in the United States since John Dewey. One of his main interests was concern for education in a democracy. Broudy believed that for a democracy to flourish, all citizens must have general knowledge and moral commitment. Additionally, Broudy studied issues centered around society’s demands on schools. He viewed education as the common link that unites a diverse society, and he advocated for a renewed commitment to the nation’s public schools. In the 1970s and 1980s, Broudy wrote numerous papers and several books that advocated for the centrality of arts education.

Broudy emigrated to the United States at the age of seven from Poland with his parents. They settled in Milford, Massachusetts, where Broudy attended the public schools. After high school graduation, Broudy enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He soon discovered, however, that his real interests were in literature, philosophy, and psychology, not in chemical engineering. He left MIT and worked as a reporter for the Milford Daily News. Subsequently, he enrolled at Boston University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and was valedictorian of his class. Broudy worked another three years at the newspaper before attending Harvard University for his master’s and Ph.D degrees.

Broudy graduated in the height of the Great Depression. Unable to find a position as a college instructor, he worked for a year as the supervisor of adult education for the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In 1937, Broudy began his academic career with a faculty position at Massachusetts State College at North Adams where he taught psychology and philosophy. He was offered a position at Framingham State Teachers College in 1949 and remained there until 1957, at which time he became Professor of Philosophy of Education at the University of Illinois.

At Illinois, Broudy gained a reputation as one of America’s leading educational philosophers, with views based on a tradition of classical realism, or that human nature strives for perfection. Accordingly, Broudy held that there is common knowledge, a set of key ideas, and learning skills that everyone should possess. This view, combined with his emphasis on education for democracy, led Broudy to advocate for a common curriculum for all students. This common secondary school curriculum embodied a sampling of all knowledge organized by: the natural sciences for knowledge about the world, the developmental studies for knowledge about society, and the exemplars (literature) for knowledge about the self, with a problem-solving track to practice using this knowledge on large-scale social problems (Vandenberg 2001).

In The Uses of Schooling (1988), Broudy delineated four uses of knowledge: replicative, associative, interpretive, and practical. Because the ability to replicate information diminishes significantly after formal instruction ends and because practical education only is useful in vocational training, Broudy believed that schools should focus their attention on the associative and interpretive uses of knowledge. Broudy pointed out that aesthetic studies provide students with associative and interpretive experiences and develop the capacities for interpretation and informed criticism, as well as a richer vocabulary for self-expression.

Broudy received three honorary doctoral degrees and was a member of the National Academy of Education, a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and an advisory board member and senior faculty member of the Getty Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts. He also served as the editor of The Educational Forum from 1964 to 1973, and was a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Aesthetic Education which, in 1992, devoted an entire issue to Broudy's contributions. Broudy officially retired in 1974, but remained active as professor emeritus in the College of Education. He wrote, lectured, and participated in other educational projects until the early 1990s when Alzheimer’s disease forced him into full retirement.

Contributed by Vanessa M. Sikes, Marble Falls High School, Marble Falls, Texas

Bresler, L. 2002. Harry Broudy on the cognitive merits of music education: Implications for research and practice of arts curriculum. Arts Education Policy Review 103(3): 17–27.

Vandenberg, D. 2001. Identity politics, existentialism, and Harry Broudy’s educational theory. Educational Philosophy and Theory 33(3-4): 365–80.

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