Topics in the News
The American University
Crystallization of Organization and Purpose.
During the final three decades of the nineteenth century, educational leaders in the United States had engaged in acrimonious debate about the fundamental nature and purpose of American higher education; by the early years of the new century, however, these debates had largely ended, and by 1910 a new consensus had been reached on the goals and the structure of the modern American university. The institution that emerged from this long philosophical ferment was uniquely American and differed from its predecessors in three key ways. First, conceding the criticism that the traditional university curriculum had been excessively arcane or simply irrelevant to the changing conditions of American society, schools now exhibited great concern that their curricula reflect practical, "real-world" subjects, such as engineering and accounting. The second difference between the university of 1900-1909 and its predecessors was demonstrated by the fact that many professors showed a new enthusiasm for scholarly and scientific research. Third, the newly focused American university deliberately aimed to extend the benefits of education to more of the population than had its predecessors. In this regard, unlike many earlier colleges and universities, the American university in this decade showed a new appreciation for diversity, an appreciation well expressed by...
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The Americanization Crusade and the Schools
Most Americans at the turn of the new century believed as an article of faith that the nation's public schools could play a decisive role in helping to assimilate the new immigrants into America's social and political mainstream. This confidence was expressed by a New York City high-school principal, who proclaimed in 1902 that "Education will solve every problem of our national life, even that of assimilating our foreign element." However, faith and rhetoric notwithstanding, American schools did not make vigorous efforts to assimilate, or "Americanize," immigrant children in the first years of the new century, even though thousands of such children were entering the nation's schools. To be sure, school leaders in a few large eastern cities opened special
Image Pop-UpThe Main Hall at Ellis Island, circa 1905.
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Changing Conceptions of Learning and Teaching
Competing Theories of Learning.
As the new century began, educators in the United States faced two key questions regarding learning and teaching: 1) How do children learn? and 2) What knowledge is of most value? Disagreements over these fundamental questions consumed both theorists and practitioners, and an intense struggle over competing theories ensued. Eventually, from this intellectual clash, a new way of thinking about learning emerged, one with profound consequences for the future of education in the United States.
The Mind as Muscle.
Traditionalists adhered to the theory of mental discipline, which maintained that the human mind was composed of separate and distinct faculties, including reasoning, memory, perception, and imagination. Sometimes referred to as mental disciplinarians, these educators argued that just as physical muscles were strengthened by physical exercise, so the faculties of the mind were strengthened by mental exercise. In their view a student who studied Greek vigorously every day increased his or her memory skills in the same way a weight lifter who worked out daily developed strong biceps and triceps. This theory of learning became the basis for the traditional teaching methods that emphasized'frequent drills, tough classroom discipline, and recitation. Just as important, mental disciplinarians argued that...
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Students who graduated from American colleges in the mid nineteenth century generally admitted that course expectations were low and that graduating required little effort; but the academic work required of undergraduates greatly increased from 1865 to 1910; and by the beginning of the new century college entrance requirements had stiffened considerably, especially among elite universities. Indeed, after 1900 it became common for university presidents to attempt to improve the academic performance of their students. Harvard, for example, instituted honors programs, and Princeton, with Woodrow Wilson as president, greatly upgraded its educational quality. Nevertheless, the overall picture for higher education in America in the decade 1900-1909 is mixed. Of the roughly five hundred institutions of higher learning, not even half deserved the title of college. Contemporaries noted that only a hundred colleges had standards of sufficient rigor to allow graduates to begin study for a doctorate. Only a dozen universities were considered to be of the "first rank." Moreover, despite the upturn in academic expectations, academic standards often remained surprisingly low. At Yale in 1903 many seniors reportedly studied only an hour a day. At Princeton, even during Wilson's tenure, the master's degree was awarded to any graduate who submitted a thesis fifteen to twenty...
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Curriculum for African Americans
The Status of Black Southerners.
In the decade from 1900 to 1909, black southerners faced increasing restrictions on all aspects of their lives. Indeed, most educational and economic opportunities that had opened up for blacks in the years immediately following the Civil War had closed by the turn of the century. Moreover, in the period after Reconstruction white southern politicians had succeeded in limiting the political power of blacks—most notably by depriving black men in every southern state of the right to vote. Black political leaders fought to keep or regain some civil and economic rights by trying to convince white politicians that persecuting the black citizenry harmed all of southern society. Their efforts ended in failure, however; and the age of Jim Crow segregation had fully arrived by the first years of the twentieth century.
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Efficiency and the Schools
An Efficiency Expert and Education.
In the first decade of the twentieth century a new system of management that emphasized the most efficient and "scientific" use of resources and labor to increase industrial productivity began taking the American business world by storm. The apostle of this view of efficiency, Frederick W. Taylor, first won renown in the field of engineering. In 1896 the editor of Engineering Magazine called Taylor's first paper on scientific management "one of the most valuable contributions that has ever been given to technical literature." As additional publications followed, Taylor was frequently invited to talk to industrial groups; by 1906 his fame was so widespread that he was elected president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. At the end of the decade there were few people inside or outside the business world who had not heard about Taylor's exciting ideas about efficiency. Impressed by those ideas, innovators in other fields began to apply Taylor's principles to nonbusiness realms, and, caught up in the excitement, some American educators began advocating new, efficient ways of running and managing the nation's public schools. At the 1908 annual meeting of the National Education Association, Andrew S. Draper gave a talk on "Adaptations of Schools to Industry and Efficiency." In the decade 1900-1909, in a relatively short time, the words...
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Hull House and Progressive Education
The Settlement Movement.
Originating in Victorian England, but spreading quickly to the United States, the settlement movement was a loose coalition of groups and individuals who sought to relieve the harsh conditions facing factory workers in the crowded English and American cities of the late nineteenth century. The first so-called settlement house opened in London in 1884, when social activist Edward Denison, clergyman Samuel A. Barrett, and historian Arnold Toynbee established a lodge, Toynbee Hall. Believing well-educated people should help close the gap between the society's rich and poor, Denison, Barrett, and Toynbee felt they could promote this purpose by living among poor people, most of whom were factory workers, and making the residence, or "settlement," a center of education. At Toynbee Hall the three men taught classes for the working people of London, hoping to give these people educational weapons to help them fight against their usually despicable living conditions. At the same time, the three men believed they could learn from their working-class students. After visiting Toynbee Hall in 1888, American Jane Addams decided to replicate the English program in Chicago, where her settlement, Hull House, became the third such settlement in the United States. By 1891, six such settlements existed across the country; by 1900 there were more than a hundred; and by 1910 more than...
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Northeastern Prep Schools
At the beginning of the twentieth century America's leading college preparatory schools, although few in number, wielded an impressive influence in American life—particularly in the northeastern United States, where most such institutions were concentrated. The prestige of these preparatory, or "prep," schools—Hotchkiss, Exeter, and Groton, to name a few— derived largely from the distinguished accomplishments of their graduates, many of whom, especially in the Northeast, became community, state, and national leaders. In 1900 a song from the Choate School summed up the notion that these elite prep schools were the training grounds for future leaders. The song was sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells."
Let us now explain
What we mean to be.
That boy there will be a judge
And that one a M.D.
That one's a Diplomat,
To London he'll be sent,
And the one who's manliest of all,
We'll make him President.
Most of the leading prep schools in the United States were founded during the thirty-year period from 1880 to 1910; and among those created in the decade 1900-1909 were Middlesex (1901), Deerfield Academy (1903), and Kent (1906). All these elite, north-eastern...
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School Reform in the South
Lifting "The Forgotten Man."
The crippling poverty that devastated the American South after the Civil War and plagued that region for many years afterward had made southern schools, by the late nineteenth century, the least effective in the nation; but in the decade 1900-1909 determined southern progressives made an all-out effort to improve the region's public schooling. Believing that "southern backwardness" in economic and social matters could be eliminated through education, these southern progressives launched their educational campaign after being galvanized to action by the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, Walter Hines Page. In his powerful speech titled "The Forgotten Man," delivered in 1897 at the North Carolina State Normal and Industrial College in Greensboro and published separately in 1902, Page had argued that the real victims of southern poverty and underdevelopment were poor white men, women, and children; and furthermore, that the South's appalling underdevelopment had occurred because of the failed policies of both the politician and the preacher. After these failures, Page maintained, "it is time for a wiser statesmanship and a more certain means of grace." His solution? "A public school system generously supported by public sentiment, and generously maintained by both State and local taxation, is the only effective means to develop the forgotten man, and even more...
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As American schools underwent intense transformation in the decade of 1900-1909, probably no aspect of their transformation was more fundamental than the introduction of vocational education into the classroom. Increasingly in these years, the nation's schools assumed the task of training workers who could operate productively in the changing economy. This development happened at a time when many Americans thought it appropriate that the public schools should help enhance the nation's economic growth, and the wide-spread acceptance of vocationalism by the schools meant they were becoming closely aligned with economic concerns. In fact, the philosophical basis for schooling in the United States increasingly changed as vocationalism became more prevalent in the schools. In earlier times workers learned vocational skills from the family, from apprenticeships, or from other less formal arrangements. In the new educational system in the years 1900-1909, however, it was the nation's schools that frequently determined young people's future careers and then carried out career training. In part because of this strong orientation toward vocationalism, schools in this decade were increasingly referred to as "factories." Some educators believed schools should not only help promote American industry but should themselves be organized like a factory.
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Wealth, Philanthropy, and Educational Policy
Private Power for Public Good.
In the first decade of the twentieth century, some American businessmen with vast fortunes spent large sums of their wealth to advance their vision of the public good, and their philanthropy exerted a great impact on educational policy in the United States. The two best-known philanthropists of the era were John D. Rockefeller, who had made his fortune by creating the Standard Oil Company, and Andrew Carnegie, whose fortune was made as the head of U.S. Steel. Rather than simply giving charity to people in need, as philanthropists had traditionally done, Rockefeller and Carnegie believed their wealth should be used for a direct attack on the causes of social problems. To that end, both men created large foundations to supervise the distribution of philanthropic resources, foundations that were given broad and flexible mandates to promote the well-being of American society.
In 1901 Andrew Carnegie began to establish the famous trusts and foundations that carried his name; and two of these foundations that directly promoted educational advances in the United States were the Carnegie Institution of Washington (1901), a science research center, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (1905), a pension fund that also provided money for educational studies. During the...
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Eliot, Charles William 1834-1926
EDUCATOR, COLLEGE PRESIDENT
Charles W. Eliot was born into an established Boston family on 20 March 1834 and taught chemistry both at Harvard and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before being appointed president of Harvard in 1869. When his forty-year tenure as president of Harvard University ended in 1909, he left behind a strong educational legacy that had an enduring impact in the United States. In higher education the innovations he introduced at Harvard influenced institutions of higher education around the country and led to the emergence of the distinctly American university. He also shaped the development of the nation's secondary and elementary schools through his frequent writings and speeches on the subject, his involvement in educational associations, and his membership on various educational reform panels. In 1903, when Eliot was at the height of his influence, the National Education Association (NEA) selected him to be its national president. In an era with little government regulation or control, voluntary organizations like the NEA kept schools and colleges in close contact on policies, programs, and standards and provided forums for discussing educational reforms.
Reforms at Harvard.
During President Eliot's administration, Harvard made the transition from a small...
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Shaley, Margaret A. 1861-1939
EDUCATOR, LABOR LEADER
The Chicago Teachers' Federation.
Margaret A. Haley headed the most militant teachers' organization in the United States, the Chicago Teachers' Federation (CTF), in the early decades of the twentieth century. Becoming leader of the group in January 1900, she continued in that position until her death thirty-nine years later. As labor advocate and social reformer, Haley fought for the cause of public education in Chicago and battled mightily to improve working conditions and pay for Chicago's elementary-school teachers. Haley's autobiography, Battleground (1982), began with the words "I never wanted to fight"; but the slight but fiery "Maggie" never backed away from machine politicians, unscrupulous businessmen, inept school administrators, or anyone who sought to frustrate her efforts to improve schools for students and teachers.
Haley was born in the town of Joliet, Illinois, on 15 November 1861 and spent her early childhood on a farm on the Illinois prairie. At sixteen, to help alleviate her family's financial troubles, Haley went to work as a teacher in a one-room country school. Finding she had a knack for teaching, she moved at age nineteen to Chicago and shortly thereafter began to teach in the urban Chicago public-school system. Securing a job as a sixth-grade...
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Hope, John 1868-1936
TEACHER, COLLEGE PRESIDENT
In June 1906 John Hope became the first African American president of Atlanta Baptist College (later renamed Morehouse College), a college for black men. A professor at the institution for eight years, Hope was highly regarded by the white trustees of the college; and as president, he helped build Atlanta Baptist College into one of the most respected black colleges in the United States.
John Hope was born in Augusta, Georgia, on 2 June 1868. His father, James Hope, an immigrant from Scotland, had made a small fortune in Augusta as the owner of one of the South's first cotton mills. John's mother, Fanny, was legally black, although both her father and grandfather were white. John, as the son of Augusta's wealthiest and most distinguished white citizen, spent his early years in luxury and safety. Of this time in Augusta, he later wrote: "There was always a choice group, a choice few who defeated circumstances. Then there was the group of people who independent of particular merit on their part, but because of circumstances, their relationships to their masters, received additional money or additional education and were to that extent ahead." Hope belonged in the latter category the first eight years of his life.
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Richman, Julia 1855-1912
EDUCATIONAL REFORMER, PRINCIPAL, SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT
Educator of Immigrants. Julia Richman spent her adult life in the New York City school system, working to educate the children of immigrants. As teacher, principal, then school superintendent, Richman developed innovative curricula and programs to teach turn-of-the-century American cultural values to the new immigrants arriving in record numbers. In her 1905 address to the National Education Association (NEA), the nation's leading educational association, Richman stated the philosophy behind her mission to educate immigrant children:
Ours is a nation of immigrants. The citizen voter of today was yesterday an immigrant child. Tomorrow he may be a political leader. Between the alien of today and the citizen of tomorrow stands the school, and upon the influence exerted by the school depends the kind of citizen the immigrant child will become.
Julia Richman was born in New York City in 1855 to Moses and Theresa Melis Richman, Jewish immigrants from Bohemia, in eastern Europe. Her father was a glazier who successfully made the transition from his homeland to the United States. Julia attended public schools in New York and completed her formal education in 1872, graduating from the Female Normal School (later renamed...
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Thomas, M. Carey 1857-1935
COLLEGE PRESIDENT, FEMINIST EDUCATOR
The life and career of M. Carey Thomas high-lighted both the educational limitations and possibilities that women faced at the beginning of the twentieth century. Most Americans at that time felt that educating a young woman beyond elementary school was unnecessary, perhaps even harmful. Her future life as mother and wife required only the most rudimentary level of literacy, according to the opponents of female education. Consequently, high-school attendance for girls was rare, and college opportunities for women were virtually nonexistent. Women who succeeded in going to college had few career options upon graduation and were frequently scorned and belittled by society. Thomas heroically rose above these circumstances and became a scholar of the first rank. Eventually, she also became president of Bryn Mawr, a women's college outside of Philadelphia; at Bryn Mawr she fashioned an institution of high academic standing that offered rigorous undergraduate and graduate study for women.
Martha Carey Thomas was born on 2 January 1857 in Baltimore,...
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Thorndike, Edward Lee 1874-1949
Scientist of Education.
Edward Thorndike influenced the development of American public schooling in the first half of the twentieth century as much as any other individual. During the five decades of his active career, he applied scientific theories and techniques to a wide range of educational problems. Thorndike praised scientific policy making, calling it "the only sure foundation for social progress." In education he focused his science methodology on such diverse issues as learning theory, testing, and school efficiency. He was also a writer of enormous output. During his lifetime Thorndike wrote seventy-eight books and published more than four hundred articles. As a result of his efforts, and the efforts of others taking a similar "scientific" approach, public-school administrators and teachers began applying Thorndike's vision of science in their schools. This new vision was exhibited most dramatically in new attempts to see students as objects to be measured and quantified.
Born on 31 August 1874 in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, Thorndike moved frequently as a child, the son of a Methodist minister who regularly changed pastorates. Young Edward attended elementary and secondary schools in New England before matriculating at Wesleyan University, where he...
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People in the News
From 1905 to 1909 the world-famous leader of the settlement house movement, Jane Addams, served as a member of the Chicago Board of Education. Ap-pointed by a reform mayor, Addams was nevertheless unsuccessful in her efforts to change the type of curriculum offered to students in the public schools or the pedagogical practices of the schools' teachers.
In 1904 Edwin A. Alderman, after serving as president of the University of North Carolina and Tulane University, started his twenty-seven-year tenure as president of the University of Virginia. As university president, Alderman pushed for educational reform in the elementary and secondary schools of the South.
In 1907 William C. Bagley published his popular text-book Classroom Management, in which he argued that teachers should run classrooms like a business enterprise. The book went through more than thirty printings during the next two decades and helped define how educators and the public thought of schools and teaching.
In 1906 George Pierce Baker originated the prototype for theater-arts programs in American universities when he taught a playwriting class, informally known as "47 Workshop," at Harvard University. Students wrote, produced, and acted their own plays. T. S. Eliot (class of 1909) and Eugene O'Neill (special student 1914-1915) were the most famous...
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Herbert Baxter Adams, 51, historian, professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, 30 July 1901.
Susan B. Anthony, 86, a leader in the women's suffrage movement; also fought to secure women's rights in education, 13 March 1906.
Henry Barnard, 89, one of the most distinguished educators of the nineteenth century; a nationwide leader in the common-school movement, university president, and first U.S. Commissioner of Education, 21 July 1900.
Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett, 74, educator and diplomat; former principal of the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia; renowned for being the nation's first African American diplomat, 1908.
Francis L. Cardozo, 66, clergyman, educator, and politician; former school principal; professor of Latin at Howard University; served as both secretary of state and state treasurer in South Carolina's Reconstruction government, 22 July 1903.
Jonas G. Clark, 85, who founded and endowed Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, 23 May 1900.
William Hooper Councill, 59, educator; first head of Alabama's State Normal and Industrial School, later renamed the Alabama State Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes when, through Councill's efforts, it became a land-grant college, 17 April 1909....
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Herbert Baxter Adams, The Church and Popular Education (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1900);
Jane Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics (New York: Macmillan, 1902);
Addams, The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (New York: Macmillan, 1909);
Leonard P. Ayres, Laggards in Our Schools: A Study of Retardation and Elimination in City School Systems(New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1909);
William C. Bagley, Classroom Management: Its Principles and Techniques (New York: Macmillan, 1907);
Bagley, The Educative Process (New York: Macmillan, 1906);
Edwin C. Broome, A Historical and Critical Discussion of College Admission Requirements (New York: Macmillan, 1903);
John Franklin Brown, The American High School (New York: Macmillan, 1909);
Sara A. Burstall, Impressions of American Education in 1908 (London: Longmans, Green, 1909);
Nicholas Murray Butler, The Meaning of Education (New York: Macmillan, 1905);
Frank Tracy Carlton, Economic Influences Upon Educational Progress in the United States (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1908);
Ellwood Patterson Cubberley, Changing...
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Important Events in Education, 1900–1909
- In January, 250,000 U.S. children under age fifteen did not attend school. Instead they worked in mines and factories.
- In March, the New York City Board of Education plans to allow students to bathe in some schools.
- On May 12, representatives from thirteen colleges and preparatory schools establish the College Entrance Examination Board.
- On July 11, renowned progressive educator Francis W. Parker pleads for the centrality of art in education, asserting in a speech to the National Education Association that there is "art in everything."
- In September, forty-eight students enroll in the new Department of School Administration at Teachers' College, Columbia University.
- On September 15, the Atlanta school system turns away four hundred students because of a lack of space in city schools.
- On November 12, Stanford University President David Starr Jordan ignites a national debate on academic freedom when he dismisses Professor Edward A. Ross for making "radical" political statements.
- On November 15, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie founds the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It will become Carnegie-Mellon University, a center for education and research in engineering and science.
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