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Peter B. Dow - Man: A Course of Study records


Man: A Course of Study was a social science course for upper elementary grades that sought to understand human existence from an anthropological perspective. It was developed in the 1960s and reached its peak of popularity in the early 1970s. The collection contains records of the development, dissemination, and evaluation of the program mostly in the form of course materials, lesson plans, reports, correspondence and interviews.


  • 1959 - 1986
  • Majority of material found within 1964 - 1978

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Gutman Library’s Special Collections Department.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests have not been transferred to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Gutman Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold the copyright.


22.25 linear feet (48 boxes)

The collection documents the origin, development, dissemination, and demise of the social studies curriculum program, Man: A Course of Study. The bulk of the material covers the development of the course as new materials were created, tested, evaluated and revised. These materials include course content aimed at students, teachers, and teacher-trainers. The collection also contains records, mainly in the form of correspondence, of the dissemination of the course and its material through various channels: training conferences, regional centers, universities, and commercial publishers. The collection includes press clippings, correspondence, and reports regarding the controversies that arose in connection with MACOS. Finally, the collection contains evaluations of the curriculum program as well as interviews with many of the people who were involved with MACOS, conducted by Peter B. Dow, who helped develop and manage the project. The materials are dated 1959–1986 with the bulk dated 1965–1978.

Biographical / Historical

Man: A Course of Study was a social studies curriculum program designed for upper elementary grades. It attempted to understand human existence from an anthropological perspective. The course was guided by three questions: 1) What makes human beings human? 2) How did they get that way? 3) How can they become more so? The course investigated these questions through a progressive examination of salmon, herring gulls, baboons, and an Inuit tribe, the Netsilik. Recurrent themes of the course included life cycle, learning, parental care, adaptation, aggression, social organization, language, technology, beliefs, and values.

A reformed social science curriculum project was first envisioned by MIT physics professor Jerold Zacharias, founder of Educational Services, Inc. (which became Education Development Center in 1967), in the early 1960s. In 1964, Harvard University psychologist Jerome Bruner took over the ESI’s elementary social studies program and redirected its focus. With the aid of federal funding from the NSF, and after a long process of development, testing, and revision, a final MACOS product emerged in the fall of 1967. By this time, Peter Dow had succeeded Bruner as the director of the elementary social studies program. Dow oversaw the later phases of MACOS’s development and its dissemination. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the course was disseminated through a network of regional centers while the EDC sought a commercial publisher. When the EDC came to a publishing agreement with Curriculum Development Associates in the spring of 1970, the CDA began assisting in the dissemination through the regional centers.

In the 1970s, local opposition to MACOS began to arise across the country, often from politically conservative and/or fundamentalist religious groups. The usual complaint was that MACOS allegedly sought to undermine “American,” or “Christian” values by teaching of alternative ways of life and by covertly teaching the theory of evolution. One such controversy in Phoeniz, AZ caught the attention of Arizona congressman John Conlan, who then took up the fight against MACOS at the federal level. In 1975, congressional hearings on the legality of the funding of the development and dissemination of MACOS by the National Science Foundation resulted in the defunding of the program and massive cut-backs in funding for all curriculum reform efforts.

The combined effects of the cessation of federal funding and the drop in sales due to bad publicity resulting from the controversies brought an end to the development and dissemination of MACOS.


These materials were produced or collected by Peter B. Dow in his role as project director of the MACOS program. Additionally, the collection also contains materials produced and gathered for Dow’s own later reevaluation and historical research on the MACOS course.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Peter B. Dow, 2009 August 14

Abbreviations used in the finding aid

CDA: Curriculum Development Associates

EDC: Education Development Center

ESI: Educational Services, Inc.

GAO: Government Accountability Office

IRG: Instructional Research Group

MACOS: Man: A Course of Study

NSF: National Science Foundation

Processing Information

Processing by Matthew Redovan and Amy Frame, 2009–2010. Duplicate material was discarded by the processing archivists. Transcribed into HOLLIS for Archival Discovery by Lindsay Skay Whitacre, October 2020, and Te-Yi Lee, May 2021.

Peter B. Dow - Man: A Course of Study records, 1959–1986, bulk 1964–1978
Monroe C. Gutman Library Special Collections, Harvard Graduate School of Education
April 13, 2010
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Repository Details

Part of the Monroe C. Gutman Library, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University Repository

Monroe C. Gutman Library
6 Appian Way
Cambridge MA 02138 United States