Professor of History of Education
University of Pennsylvania
A former Peace Corps volunteer and public school social studies teacher, Dr. Zimmerman holds a Ph.D. in history from the Johns Hopkins University. His scholarship has focused broadly on the ways that different peoples have imagined and debated education across time and space. He has authored books about sex and alcohol education, history and religion in the curriculum, Americans who taught overseas, and historical memory in public schooling. His most recent work examines campus politics in the United States, including controversies over diversity, sexual assault, and “political correctness.”
Zimmerman’s academic work has appeared in the Journal of American History, the Teachers College Record, and History of Education Quarterly. He is also a frequent contributor to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New York Review of Books, and other popular newspapers and magazines. He came to Penn GSE after 20 years at New York University, where he served as chair of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Zimmerman received NYU’s Distinguished Teaching Award, its highest recognition for teaching. His former Ph.D. students have held positions at Carleton College, George Mason University, Brown University, and many other institutions.
Zimmerman has received book and article prizes from the American Educational Research Association, the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era, and the History of Education Society, where he served as president in 2009–2010. He is co-editor of the American Institutions and Society book series at Cornell University Press and also of the History and Philosophy of Education series at the University of Chicago Press. He has received several research awards from the Spencer Foundation, which also supported a kickoff conference for his University of Chicago book series.
Research Interests and Current Projects
Dr. Zimmerman recently completed a book (co-authored with Emily Robertson) on the teaching of controversial issues in American public schools, which was published by the University of Chicago Press in April 2017. He is also conducting research for a history of college teaching in the United States, entitled The Scholar at the Blackboard. Drawing upon student evaluations and other unpublished manuscript materials in dozens of university archives, the book will provide our first in-depth examination of how undergraduate teaching practices in the United States took root and changed over time.
B.A. (Urban Studies) Columbia University, summa cum laude, 1983
M.A. (History) Johns Hopkins University, 1990
Ph.D. (History) Johns Hopkins University, 1993
Areas of Expertise
History/Politics of education
“Culture Wars” in American and global contexts
Sex, sexuality, and schools
Education and historical memory