William W. Brickman (1913 - 1986)

Brickman, William W

Short Biography & Significant Contribution

William Wolfgang Brickman co-founded the Comparative Education Society (CES, later renamed as the Comparative and International Education Society) in the United States in 1956, and served as president twice (1956-1959, 1967-1968). His impact on the field of comparative education goes far beyond his involvement in the establishment of the Society. His career at New York University (NYU; 1940-1942, 1946-1962) and the University of Pennsylvania (1962-1981) reflect his commitment to historical scholarship, adherence to academic freedom, and belief in the value of comparative education.

For Brickman, comparative education was a missing piece in the proper education of teachers, which typically emphasized sociological, psychological, and behavioral pedagogy more than comparative analysis. He believed that through the careful examination of other countries' teaching methods, practices, and theories, teachers and policymakers in the U.S. would more likely achieve quality in education.

Born in the Lower East Side of New York City in 1913 to Orthodox Jewish parents, Brickman was exposed to different cultures, languages, histories, and religions. In their small, unheated tenement, his family spoke Yiddish, Hebrew, Aramaic, Polish, German, and Russian. Brickman's multilingual upbringing in a multicultural neighborhood impacted his later belief in the importance of foreign language knowledge, particularly when studying comparative education issues.

After receiving his Ph.D. from NYU in Educational History, Brickman taught two years at the same institution before enlisting in World War II. The military recognized his training at NYU and initially made him a historian. However, after discovering his German fluency, the military recruited Brickman as a special agent in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). At the close of the war, he returned to the U.S. and his academic career.

In 1953 Brickman become chairman of the department of history of education at NYU. The following year, he began organizing and holding meetings at the university to discuss comparative education, bringing together, among other scholars, teachers, and administrators, Maxine Greene and Robert Ulich. Commissioned by countries such as Israel and the Soviet Union to evaluate their education systems, he was at the forefront of the network of individuals working in comparative education. He soon helped Gerald Read of Kent State University organize study tours to bring comparative educators to other countries in hopes of exchanging ideas and building relationships. With the rise of Communism, the climate in the U.S. was right for a structured organization to bring together and support scholars in comparative education. Brickman professionalized this group into CES with the help of Read and Bessie Goodykootnz by combining his yearly conferences and the study tours.

Brickman acted as academic director for eight study tours, and rooted his comparative education career in scholarship more than administrative and organizational work. He appreciated different methodologies in the field and welcomed academic diversity, but preferred historical scholarship in his own research, publishing articles in both history and comparative education journals. Brickman even had an entirely separate, yet just as rich, career in the world of Jewish education. Best known for beginning the Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools (AARTS), an accreditation organization, he published journal articles and gave lectures on topics in Jewish education.

Brickman's style of research resembled the work of Isaac Kandel and Robert Ulich. He based his research methods on a systematic, historical approach. Outlines, literature reviews, and bibliographies were of the utmost importance to his research, which included such varied topics as Soviet education; church/state relations; American educational history; history of comparative education; and historical and comparative education theory, methods, and applications. He traveled around the world lecturing on these topics-often speaking to audiences in their first language.

As well as being a prolific scholar who published more than 20 books, Brickman was also an editor for much of his academic career, most notably for the two academic journals, School and Society (1953-1976) and Western European Education (1979-1986). He believed in the notion of academic freedom, and strove to ensure the journals he edited were welcoming venues for scholars from all epistemological backgrounds.

Brickman remained active during his retirement, continuing his academic research and public service. He died of leukemia in 1986 and was buried in Israel. His contributions to comparative education reflected an academic rigor of the highest scholarship; a respect for different epistemological approaches; impressive linguistic skills; wide ranging research interests and expertise; meticulous research methods; and efforts to teach others the value and role of comparative education. As his former student, Elizabeth Sherman Swing, wrote in 1987, Brickman had "the worldview of a traditionalist, but he was a traditionalist who was also an explorer."

Image from : Photograph courtesy of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, William W. Brickman Collection, Box 120".

Educational Background

B.A. in German and Education, College of the City of New York (1934)

M.S. in Education, College of the City of New York (1935)

Ph.D. in Educational History, New York University (1938)

Professional Background

Instructor in German, College of the City of New York (1937)

Instructor in German and History, Mesivta High School, Brooklyn, NY (1937-1943)

Instructor in History of Education, New York University (1940-1942; 1946-1948)

Lecturer in History of Education, New York University (1948¬-1950)

Assistant Professor of History of Education, New York University (1950-1951)

Associate Professor of History of Education and Comparative Education; Supervisor of Student Teaching in Six Foreign Languages, New York University (1951-1957)

Chair of History of Education Department, New York University (1953-1957)

Professor of History of Education and Comparative Education, New York University (1957-1962)

Professor of Educational History and Comparative Education, University of Pennsylvania (1962-1981; Chair of Educational History and Comparative Education in alternate years)

Visiting Professor of Educational History and Comparative Education, University of California, Los Angeles (summer 1953, 1954); Yeshiva University (1953-1957; summer 1959, 1964); University of Hamburg, Germany (summer 1957); University of Illinois (summer 1958); University of Toledo (June 1959); Loyola College, Baltimore (spring 1963); Teachers College, Columbia University (summer 1964); University of Pittsburgh (summer 1965); University of Wyoming (June 1968); Bar-Ilan University, Israel (June 1970); University of Cape Town, South Africa (1981)

Affiliations (associations, organizations, institutions)

Comparative and International Education Society (was Comparative Education Society) (Co-founder and first President, 1956-1959; Board Member, 1960-1964; President, 1967-1968; Board Member, 1968-1969)

Education Abstracts (Editor, 1942-1944)

Modern Language Journal (Assistant Managing Editor, 1942-1946)

School and Society (Acting Editor, 1947-1949; Editor, 1953-1976; later Intellect, now USA Today Magazine)

Western European Education (Contributing Editor, 1971-1979; Editor, 1979-1986; now European Education)

Selected Publications

Brickman, W. W. (1955). The Educational Expert and Foreign Languages. School and Society, 81(March 15), 91.

Brickman, W. W. (1960). A Historical Introduction to Comparative Education. Comparative Education Review, 3(3), 6-13.

Brickman, W. W. (1961). The Meeting of East and West in Educational History. Comparative Education Review, 5(2), 82-89.

Brickman, W. W. & Lehrer, S. (Eds.). (1961). Religion, Government, and Education. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Brickman, W. W. (1964). Educational Systems in the United States. New York: Center for Applied Research in Education.

Brickman, W. W. (1966). Prehistory of Comparative Education to the End of the Eighteenth Century. Comparative Education Review, 10(1), 30-47.

Brickman, W. W. (1966). Ten Years of the Comparative Education Society. Comparative Education Review, 10(1), 4-15.

Fraser, S. E. & Brickman, W. W. (1968). A History of International and Comparative Education: Nineteenth-Century Documents. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman.

Brickman, W. W. (1973). Comparative Education: Concept, Research, and Application. Norwood, PA: Norwood.

Brickman, W. W. (1973). Research in Educational History. Norwood, PA: Norwood. [Reprint of his 1949 Guide to Research in Educational History]

Brickman, W. W. (1975). Bibliographic Essays on Educational Reference Works. Norwood, PA: Norwood.

Brickman, W. W. & Cordasco, F. (1975). Bibliography of American Educational History. New York: AMS.

Brickman, W. W. (1977). Comparative and International Education Society: An Historical Analysis. Comparative Education Review, 21(2/3), 396-404.

Brickman, W. W. (1982). Educational Historiography: Tradition, Theory, and Technique. Cherry Hill, N.J.: Emeritus.

Brickman, W. W. (1985). Educational Roots and Routes in Western Europe. Cherry Hill, N.J.: Emeritus.

Additional Resources on Brickman

Torah World (1986). Torah World Mourns Dr. William W. Brickman. William W. Brickman Collection, University of Pennsylvania archives.

Swing, E. S. (1987). In Memoriam: William W. Brickman (1913-1986). Comparative Education Review, 31(1), 1-6.

Silova, I. and Brehm, W. C. (Eds.). (2010). Speaking of Brickman. European Education: Issues and Studies, 42(2), 1-100.


Created: 7/18/2010

Updated: 7/19/2010

Contributed By: Erin Hardacker, Loyola University Chicago, and William C. Brehm, Lehigh University