This post is a review of an educational film viewed in my Educational Psychology class at Seattle Pacific University. In this brief post, the following three questions will be answered:
1) What is the focus of the era?
2) What do we learn about schools then?
3) Who gets to learn?
What is the focus of the era?
To build an independent, patriotic nation.
- In school students became something larger than themselves or their families, they became part of one nation. Students learned about the meaning of democracy itself.
- At that time, only the larger towns in New England were required to build schools, outside of this area, education was neither free nor public. Most schooling was closely tied to the Protestant Bible. With the Bible as a core part of the curriculum, school was about saving the soul.
- Aside from using the Bible, the most common school book was the New England Primer.
- When Noah Webster claimed that the 1st step in forming a new nation was to remove England’s textbooks- national history had to be formed on the founding fathers.
- General education will enable people to keep their own freedom. Survival of independence relied on the education of all Americans. With this in mind, Thomas Jefferson drafted a proposal of a three year education for all children in America. Additionally, he would send on the very brightest youth to universities.
What do we learn about schools then?
Schools widely differ depending on location and private funding.
- 18th century schools were formed in a manner so as to keep the status quo; children would replace their parents in society.
- Men were teachers, not women.
- There is an average of 82 days of total school in a year.
- Jefferson said at this time, “People have more feeling for roads and canals than for education, they are leery of taxation for education.”
- Horace Mann, the Secretary of Education, had little previous authority or background in education before attaining his position as secretary. He reviewed facilities and town-to-town education equality. He found that wealthy students could go to school for longer, and poor couldn’t go at all. He reported on the conditions of the school buildings. Rural district schools were out of shape and in disrepair.The materials were inadequate, readers were terrible.
- At this time, children of all ages went to school, teachers acted as a ring master to keep multiple children working on all different subjects focused.
- Schools had very strict rules and used punishment (often physical) as a form of discipline.
- People began leaving public schools for private schools. Mann held a series of meetings for what he called common schools. These common schools would teach from a common curriculum. This system would “know no distinction between rich and poor.” Mann believed in equalizing school. Common, meaning: all coming together.
- Critics of Horace Mann were opposed to state control of schools as well as the taxes that came with it.
- Furthermore, Mann recommended resources for classrooms: a blackboard, standardized textbooks, chairs with backs on them, and in general, more teacher regulation. He got free, tax supported education, to be available to every class. Each citizen was to be equal to any other in politics and rights.
Who gets to learn?
A select few until …progress leads to more opportunity
- Under Thomas Jefferson’s proposal (early 1800’s), girls were alloted three years of schooling, while no education was permitted for slaves. Male students were given the most opportunities and more was expected from their education.
- By the mid 1800’s many of the students seeking education were immigrants. However, most schools were protestant (bad news for the Irish Catholics). John Hughes, the Catholic priest, called for movement of Irish children to not go to schools that had books which would indoctrinate Irish students against their personal religion. He wanted a just proportion of the funds from the common fund to be given to the Irish to start their own schools. The city, New York, denied Hughes’ request.
- In 1843 Bible riots broke out, leaving 13 people dead and the Catholic Church burned to the ground. Protestant textbooks spoke about the Catholics as a different race of people in offensive and derogatory language. However, after much opposition from the Protestant movement, most offensive statements toward Catholics were removed from textbooks.
- During this time, 2/3 of the black population lived in the south, and were severely punished for any attempt of education. In 1840 African Americas were still restricted to segregated schools.
- Inspired by Fredrick Douglas, supporters requested desegregation as a part of equal and common curriculum. Despite the requests, segregation continued even in the event of terrible school conditions of black schools.
- In 1849 the case was heard at the Supreme Court. Denied again, the case was taken to the state legislator where it was passed.
- 1865- The Civil War ended. Now all were free to pursue an education.
This film is part of a series of four called:
School- “The Story of American Public Education”
It was produced by PBS and narrated by Academy Award winner Meryl Streep. For more information see link: http://www.pbs.org/kcet/publicschool/