Common schools

Here you will find articles about play and playspaces, public education pedagogy and politics, school buildings and school teachers, and higher education, as published mainly in Illinois Issues and Illinois Times. 


The first serious writing I ever did (and boy, was I serious) was about schools, specifically public schools, meaning the public schools in Springfield, meaning the Springfield public schools I attended—mostly polemics about relevance and group-think and kids as second-class citizens, half-digested from reading Goodman and Holt and Hentoff and other rabble-rousers. Schools and kids also were the subject of the only article of mine ever to appear in a sort-of professional journal; see below for "School Is Something You Put Up With . . . ." 

School teachers—well, that's a different thing. They were arguably the most important (which is not to say always the best) people I knew growing up. They were enormously influential, less for what they taught me—I was a classic self-teacher—but in how they shaped my notions of self.

Nearly all my friends have been teachers of one kind or other—indeed, I suppose I've always fancied myself a teacher of a sort too. An adult life spent with a Montessori teacher, trainer, and administrator meant that kids and schools—and parents and governments—were a staple of conversation and debate at our house. Thus it was that, while childless myself, I stayed focused on kids and schools as public issues. 

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“A Fraud and a Hoax”

Defining incompetence in incompetent schools

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 2, 1979

Not Just for Field Trips

Museums as surrogate schools

Illinois Issues  July 1995

School Is Something You Put Up With

Illinois teens speak their minds in the 1970s

Illinois Journal of Education  September/October 1972 

Higher education

Who's Afraid of Paula Wolff?
The University of Illinois Chicago plays find the leader

Reader  May 17, 1991

Finding a Niche 

Sangamon State and a higher purpose for Illinois higher ed

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  February 20, 1992

Buyer Ed

Illinois universities: Private ends and public means

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 5, 1992

Basic Questions

Money casts a shadow over a campus spring

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  May 13, 1982

Saving for a Brainy Day

College families learn it takes money to make money

“Prejudices” Illinois Times September 12, 1991

Reflections on a Howling Mob

U of I football fans flag the Big Ten

Illinois Times  May 15, 1981

Finding a Niche

Sangamon State U. after twenty years

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  February 20, 1992

Pay as You Leave

A legislator wants refunds from itinerant scholars

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  March 5, 2015

Real Innovation

Rethinking, not just reforming, public higher ed

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  June 29, 2017

Foreign Exchange

Bursting the Asian enrollment boom at the U of I 

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  September 21, 2017

Making Illinois Safe for the Bs

Two legislators want to reform higher ed

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  October 12, 2017

Stellar! Stellar!

Springfield’s U of I passes the hat

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  November 2, 2017 

Positive Spillovers

What are public universities for?

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times January 17, 2013

The College Game

Is higher education the best way to prepare for a career?

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times September 29, 2011

College Credit

Buying a future with borrowed money

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times February 2, 2012

New Ways of Learning

Educators learn new ways to make old mistakes

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 20, 1991

Moment of Frivolity?

Illinois public schools get religion

Illinois Issues  February 2008

College Bound

The risks of asking strangers for directions

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 7, 1989

Lincoln School

Lessons unlearned by public educators

"Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 8, 1988

The Moon Sets in Sorrento

Driver ed and pompons and bond issues 

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 17, 1981

A Nest of Singing Birds

Two Springfield English teachers raise a flock

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 8, 1978

The Encouragement of Competent Teachers
Would Elizabeth Graham be allowed to teach today?
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  April 30, 2015 

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John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago


The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago, Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois


Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

Illinois Digital Archives


Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.




Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of

solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study

. . . an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy

the book

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All material Copyright © by James Krohe Jr. unless otherwise indicated