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Pioneer’s Progress: An Autobiography by Alvin Johnson (with a new foreword by Julia Foulkes and Mark Larrimore, and a foreword by Max Lerner; 169,000 words, 13 illustrations)

“This is the story of a long and brilliant career in American education... [Johnson] writes with humor, modesty, and what seems to be total recall, a fascinating report of a useful life.” — Bruce Bliven, The New York Times

“Alvin Johnson has written a first-rate life history, but by that fact he has also written a good deal more. For he has told his life in a way that shows how it holds in microcosm all the dominant themes of our American history and society... [Johnson] must have been a bewildering paradox for his more solemn academic colleagues — a Nebraska farmer who knew the dead languages and most of the European living ones, an economist who knew literature and anthropology and the ‘new’ psychology, an original thinker who was at ease in the columns of the
New Republic, an irreverent man who refused to follow the latest revolutionary dogmas but was merciless in knocking the sawdust out of the stuffy orthodoxies... [Johnson] can believe in other men because he has a quiet fortress of strength in himself. Lytton Strachey remarked that it is harder to write a good life than to lead one. Alvin Johnson has done both.” — Max Lerner, The American Scholar

“This autobiography is remarkable for the long and fruitful span of life which it records, for the rich and varied contents, and for the humor which the author plays upon every chapter... every chapter bears witness to the honesty of the author’s statement: ‘Never in all my life have I given a hoot for personal security.’“ — George M. Stephenson,
The American Historical Review

“This American success story is refreshingly different from the usual rags-to-riches one. Alvin Johnson is the best kind of man that America produces, and his autobiography, both in the writing and the story that is told, is one of the best books of the year.” —
The Providence Journal

“It is necessary for any thoughtful American to take
Pioneer’s Progress in hand. You can pick it up, lay it down, come back to it at any odd moment, even on the subway, with pleasure and profit. It is as various in content as a good meal.” — Dorothy Canfield Fisher

“What you will remember is the Nebraska boy applying his farmbred wisdom and his father’s courage to all the questions that fate tossed his way.” —
New York Herald Tribune

“Alvin Johnson’s biography ought to be required reading, both here and abroad, for anyone who wants to understand American government, and the American spirit.” —
Adolf A. Berle, Jr.

“A fine and mellow autobiography by the father of adult education in this country... His book is alive with anecdotes on everything from life on a remote Nebraska farm to pioneering in the field of the social sciences... Education’s man of action, in a self-portrait which is permeated with a homespun charm and humor and invigorated by the character of the man and his impressive influence.” —
Kirkus Reviews

“This book relates the interesting life story of a great American liberal and intellectual leader... The reader of
Pioneer’s Progress is constantly amazed at the versatility of a man who is able to cram so many good works into one lifetime. Yet, his book is written with such simplicity, modesty, and self-deprecating humor that one cannot help but like as well as admire him.” — L. S. Curtis, Journal of Negro History

“[A] lively story which the more-or-less-retired president of the New School has written about his activities up to now... a man’s record of his own life... Among the causes which this man helped turn into movements were land reclamation, rescue of scholars from destruction (by Hitler, Mussolini, and the Communists), peace, and racial justice. But adult education is his great consuming passion. Of this the New School for Social Research, whose founding president he was, is living testimony... To Alvin Johnson, all causes — racial justice, peace, better farming and better health, what have you — are one with adult education. One learns by reading, by observing, by arguing, by acting, by interacting with other people... And perhaps this is the important thing about the man; he would not be confined... And it is in the story of the New School that we learn what the man Johnson really is... This man is strictly a
public entrepreneur.” — Everett C. Hughes, Commentary Magazine

“Despite the sophistication of the higher reaches of learning and academic endeavor that form a large part of Johnson’s story, he never completely leaves the soil, or the West. The Nebraska beginnings so charmingly chronicled in the early part of the book seem tied intimately to later chapters that related his adventures in land reclamation and his theories on sugar beets, Danish farmers, even Montana Indian reservations. All these serve to demonstrate convincingly that the western roots of Alvin Johnson grew deep indeed.” — Carl Ubbelohde,
Montana: The Magazine of Western History

“All through his long years of active life Alvin Johnson has fought against bigotry and pettiness of spirit. He is always the free spirit who puts reasoned enlightenment and imaginative and creative thinking against academic stuffiness and oppressive intolerance. But he is never satisfied with mere verbal expression; he always seeks to concretize his reactions into living institutions. His autobiography is, therefore, not only a moving and inspiring story of his own spiritual development but also a chronicle of American cultural institutions during the past 50 years.” — Koppel S. Pinson,
Jewish Social Studies

“One’s first response to Dr. Johnson’s autobiography is of pride: that so useful, so various, and, what one ventures to call so American a life should belong to us... this autobiography, with its spontaneous combination of concepts and concerns, offers most interesting materials for the student of our national development in modern times.” — Louis Filler,
The Mississippi Valley Historical Review