Seize the Schools, Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre: Cold War Education Politics in New York and San Juan, 1948-1975
Lauren Lefty

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



New York University

Primary Discipline

This dissertation examines connections between education politics in New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico between 1948 and 1975, considering how both high level policy and grassroots activism were shaped by transnational interactions and a larger Cold War political context. It explores, for example, how debates about education’s role in economic development, community control, and bilingual education engaged questions of modernization, sovereignty, and citizenship as well as the more oft-recognized debates regarding race and postwar American multiculturalism.By following the movement of policymakers, education researchers, teachers, students, activists, and parents from island to mainland and across the Americas, this study aims to not only add another voice to the multicultural chorus, but fundamentally alter the way we frame the narrative—geographically, temporally, and ideologically. Ultimately, by expanding the geographical reference points for well-known postwar education milestones, such as President Johnson’s Great Society and ESEA reforms, the late 1960s community control debates, and the fight for bilingual/bicultural education, we can gain a better sense of the ideological content of these battles, and better conceptualize the complex relationship between education, empire, and capitalism across the Americas. Considering the increasing number of Latino students in the U.S. public school system, and the links between pro- and anti-neoliberal education politics in the U.S. and Latin America in the present, it also hopes to uncover thematic parallels between the era under scrutiny and our current age helpful for historians, educationists, and policymakers alike.
About Lauren Lefty
Lauren Lefty is a doctoral candidate at New York University in the History of Education program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in History with a minor in Spanish Language from NYU, where she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Before beginning graduate work, Lauren worked as a middle school teacher on the Texas-Mexico border, a high school teacher in Brooklyn, and as a policy planner for the NYC Department of Education. Her research and scholarly interests focus on education policy and activism across the Americas, Latino education in the U.S., and teacher preparation policy. In addition to her dissertation, she is currently co-authoring a book on the recent history of teacher education in the United States.

Pin It on Pinterest