Lefty Parent

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Living & parenting without the rule book

Posts Tagged ‘history of public education’

The Myth of the Common School

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Little Red SchoolhouseThere are at least two misnomers out there today about the beginnings of the U.S. public school system…

1. That it was set up to to bring basic instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic to the children whose families did not have the means to hire tutors or send their children to private schools.

2. That it was set up on the factory model to train workers to work in the proliferating factories of the beginnings of industrialism in the first half of the 19th Century.

Though our public schools eventually adopted the “three R’s” and the factory model of timed classes, bells and such, those were later “innovations”.

The reality of the beginnings of U.S. public schools is quite different, and a fascinating book to read on this subject is The Myth of the Common School, written by Charles Leslie Glenn Jr. in the mid 1980s. The “Common school” being the original name given to the universal one-size-fits-all public schools envisioned and developed by Horace Mann and other education reformers of the early 19th Century.

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