Curricula (American History Through Literature)
From 1820 to 1870, curricula in higher education shifted from a focus on oral to written discourse, in part as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The increased access to printed materials, rising literacy rates, and reliance on the written word to conduct political, economic, and legal business effected changes in educational curricula and pedagogy. By the end of the century, American education replaced the oratorical training necessary for students interested in ministry and civic leadership positions with a specialized disciplinary curricula designed for emerging professional careers. While school curricula and the ideologies behind them obviously influenced literary production, the relationship between instruction and authorship was especially close during this period; a stint at school teaching was part of the preparation of most of the important authors of the period, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Fanny Fern, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman.
PRIMARY SCHOOL INSTRUCTION
Throughout the period under discussion, high schools and colleges shared similar curricula and pedagogical trends. However, primary school instruction was defined by a handful of textbooks that established the basis for a "chauvinistic nationalism" and literary heritage, which went unchallenged well into the twentieth century.
One of the best known was the text that was commonly known as the Blue-Back Spellerhe first part of A Grammatical Institute of the English Language (1783) by Noah Webster (1758843). It was common in America until 1900 and, as described by Arthur Applebee in Tradition and Reform in the Teaching of English: A History, it "combined under one cover alphabet, primer, speller, and reader, using materials which were unabashedly adult and didactic" (p. 3). Created in part to unify education and culture, Webster's Grammatical Institute also included a grammar and a reader, neither of which ever attained the success of Webster's speller but, nevertheless, established the pattern for all subsequent grammar-school texts. Grammar was considered a primary school subject, a prerequisite for study at the college level but not a subject actually studied there. In 1819 the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) first asked incoming students to demonstrate competence in English grammar. By 1860 most colleges had adopted similar requirements, which relegated the study of grammar to the lower schools. By 1850 Murray's English Grammar (first published in England in 1795) had gone through two hundred editions and enjoyed widespread adoption in American lower schools.
Of note, Webster's An American Selection of Lessons in Reading and Speaking (the third part of Grammatical Institute and first published in 1787) secularizes school curriculum by selecting patriotic texts useful for improving spoken discourse. However, not until 1830 did secular concerns outnumber religious readings and lessons in primary school readers. During the time period under consideration, belletristic literature was rarely adopted as the primary text for reading instructionot until the 1880s would the study of literature become an accepted pedagogical method for primary reading instruction. Instead, students were assigned selections that reflected a Protestant work ethic. Within this tradition, we find the enormously popular Eclectic Reader, better known as the McGuffey reader six-volume series first published in 1836 by William Holmes McGuffey (1800873). Universally adopted in America for fifty years, the McGuffey readers included short (one- to two-page) lessons sequentially ordered according to difficulty. Volumes five and six also included short belletristic selections. The McGuffey readers stressed reading aloud and included topics associated with elocution instruction. Collectively, Webster's and McGuffey's texts established both the educational theories and subject matter that defined American primary school education and dictated text production for decades to come.
Originally a part of the classical rhetorical canonnvention, arrangement, style, memory, and deliveryraining in elocution remained a distinct field of study during the nineteenth century. Introduced into the curriculum in order to prepare students training to become lawyers, ministers, and political leaders, the elocutionary movement in America derived from the strong British tradition. The first American influence upon teachers and texts of the period was Philosophy of the Human Voice (1827) by James Rush (1786869). It provided an introduction to the scientific components of speech, adding a discussion of vocal production to traditional discussions of delivery and gesture. The Rush system spawned many American texts, and followers of Rush represented diverse fields: rhetoric, science, medicine, education, and theater. Like Rush, the Reverend Ebenezer Porter (1772834), Bartlett Professor of Sacred Rhetoric in Andover Seminary, was a pioneer teacher and textbook writer interested in the physiology of elocution; his sphere of influence extended far beyond theological circles. Porter, too, was interested in the scientific aspects of speech. His 1827 treatise Analysis of the Principles of Rhetorical Delivery as Applied in Reading and Speaking was adopted at colleges such as Amherst, Brown, Dartmouth, Georgia, Gettysburg, Hampden-Sydney, Middlebury, Mount Holyoke, and Wesleyan. The shortened version of that work designed for lower-school instruction, The Rhetorical Reader (1831), was adopted by schools in every state in the union.
The separation of rhetoric and elocution is obvious by 1830, when Yale appointed Erasmus D. North as instructor of elocution, and Harvard hired Jonathan Barber to teach a scientific method of elocution. By 1850 "Rhetoric and Oratory" was replaced by the term "Rhetoric and Belles Lettres," and although declamations, disputations, and training in rhetoric had traditionally been part of the American curriculum, not until the nineteenth century were endowed chairs established and speech training organized into a separate course or combined with composition instruction. In 1842 and 1843 Amherst offered a freshman course entitled Elements of Orthoepy and Elocutions, supplemented by weekly exercises in composition and declamation. At the same time, the University of Alabama offered a freshman-level course called Elocution, which required students to compose and publicly deliver weekly exercises in Latin and English. As late as 1861 Harvard offered a class entitled Elocution, which included lessons in orthoepy, expression, action, rhetorical analysis, and reading; and the same year Yale offered a sophomore-level class entitled Elocution, Declamation, and Composition. However, the majority of elocution teachers were itinerant lecturers who often gave private lessons at area educational institutions and occasionally established private schools of elocution. William Russell (1798873), the author of The American Elocutionist (1844), and James Murdoch founded the School of Practical Rhetoric and Oratory in 1844 in Boston, and J. W. Shoemaker (1842880) established the National School of Elocution and Oratory in Philadelphia in 1866. The public looked to oratory and elocution as a means for social advancement. Notably, in his youth, Frederick Douglass purchased an edition of The Columbian Orator (1797) by Caleb Bingham (1757817), a popular elocution textbook. Douglass studied the collected famous speeches and rules of oratory in order to find his own voice.
Elocutionary training was included in the lower schools, as well. In addition to Porter's The Rhetorical Reader, the McGuffey Readers acknowledged elocutionary instruction, and Russell, the first editor of the American Journal of Education (1826829), was particularly interested in the improvement of "expressive faculties" in the lower gradesvidenced in his treatises written for grammar school teachers. Although elocution as a school subject was displaced by 1875, because of its tendency to become artificial and exhibitionist, the American elocutionists from 1820 to 1870 made significant contributions to what would become the field of speech education.
RHETORIC AND COMPOSITION
In Writing Instruction in Nineteenth-Century American Colleges, James Berlin identifies three strands of nineteenth-century rhetoric within American education: classical (based on Greek and Roman oratorical practice), psychological-epistemological (deriving from Scottish common sense realism, the rejection of Aristotelian philosophy, and belletristic concerns), and romantic (which places the act of reading and writing at the center of knowledge). By 1820 the classical tradition was in demise as Americans came to value education that was scientific, practical, and personal. And by the end of the nineteenth century, the term "rhetoric" became synonymous for writing instruction.
The first half of the nineteenth century witnessed the publication of few American works on rhetoric. Colleges and universities relied heavily on British texts, particularly Hugh Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (published and brought to America in 1783 and reprinted in Philadelphia in 1784), George Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric (published in 1776 and reprinted in America in 1818), Richard Whately's Elements of Rhetoric (1828), and Lord Henry Home Kames's Elements of Criticism (1762). Best known as an influential source for the rhetoric of Blair, Campbell, and Whately, Kames's text went through over thirty American editions and was widely adopted in American colleges during this period. One other Scottish belletristic rhetoric, Alexander Jamieson's A Grammar of Rhetoric and Polite Literature (1818), was enormously popular from 1820 until about 1880, going through sixty editions.
Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres was enormously popular prior to the Civil War. Not a systematic treatment of classical rhetoric but rather a collection of opinions on literary composition and criticism, Lectures addressed taste, style, language, eloquence, and belletristic compositions. Often imitated, Blair's categorizations and codification of rhetorical principles were prevalent within college curricula. His dismissal of invention and attention to style led to the widespread study of belletristic literature. After 1820 Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric became a strong competitor of Blair's Lectures. Although designed for rhetorical oratory, Campbell's work applied equally to written discourse and was widely adopted as a composition text. Campbell discussed logic, grammar, and style extensively, and his treatment of usage was, for a time, universally adopted in American schools.
Addressing both oral and written discourse, Whately's Elements of Rhetoric immediately rivaled the popularity of Blair and Campbell in the American colleges but was used in conjunction with those texts rather than supplanting them. Adopted as late as 1880, Whately restored to rhetoric the Aristotelian emphasis on logic. Uninterested in belletristic rhetoric, he devoted much attention to invention and arrangement, insisting that students must be given assignments that they find interesting and that fall within their range of abilities. Until after the Civil War, no original American rhetoric text appearednly imitators of Blair, Campbell, and Whately.
A Practical System of Rhetoric; or, The Principles and Rules of Style: Inferred from Examples of Writing (1827) by Samuel P. Newman (1797842) was the first commercially successful American rhetoric designed specifically as a textbook. A rhetoric of written criticism, Newman's work focused on style and criticismnd clearly followed Blair's belletristic tradition. Within this tradition, Edward T. Channing (1790856), holder of the Boylston Chair at Harvard, 1819851, is noteworthy. Although Channing's Lectures Read to the Seniors in Harvard College (1856) never enjoyed widespread adoption, the publication of his work, which focuses on the writer rather than orator, marks the end of the dominance of classical rhetoric in America. Channing is perhaps best known as the influential teacher of students such as Thoreau, Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell. Channing supplemented his courses in rhetoric with informal evening meetings in which his students read and discussed English poetry.
The most notable shift in curricula during this time concerns the institutionalization of composition instruction. Alexander Bain, the Scottish professor of moral philosophy, psychologist, and the first holder of the chair of English and Logic at Aberdeen University, published English Composition and Rhetoric: A Manual (1866) to introduce his rustic Scottish students to paragraph unity, topic sentences, and the modes of discourse. Widely adopted, emulated, and (mis)appropriated in American schools, Bain's work is often blamed for establishing a reductive view of current-traditional rhetoric in America, which was practiced throughout the twentieth century.
George Payne Quackenbos (1826881) was perhaps the first American rhetorician to synthesize the British imports and to deliver pedagogical advice in a practical manner. In Advanced Course of Composition and Rhetoric: A Series of Practical Lessons on the Origin, History, and Peculiarities of the English Language (1854), Quackenbos included discussions of the belletristic tradition, composition advice based on Campbell's conception of faculty psychology, and an exhaustive section on grammar (a practical subject not normally included in the more theoretical rhetoric texts characterizing the time). Along with Bain and less influential American contemporary Henry Noble Day (1808890), author of Elements of the Art of Rhetoric (1850), Quackenbos was one of the first rhetoricians to make the modes of discourse a fundamental component of composition instruction.
EDUCATION FOR FEMALE STUDENTS
The educational move from oratory to composition instruction benefited women's education in three important ways: Belletristic rhetoric's focus on taste and literary style (as opposed to eloquence) better suited nineteenth-century perceptions of womanhood. Suggesting that rhetoric fell within the realm of womanhood, belletristic education offered examples of women's conversation as models of excellent prose. Technological advancementsheaper ink and paperefuted arguments claiming that the education of women was an expensive extravagance. And rising middle-class parents were often eager to educate their daughters so that they might obtain jobs in respectable teaching fields and raise the socioeconomic status of the family (Wright and Halloran, pp. 23435). Although the education of women was becoming socially acceptable during this time, women were still educated in the "rhetoric of use" or "culture of service." Female students were not introduced to traditional modes of public speakinglthough they often engaged in the practice of reading aloud their written works in class, as was the case with the students of the educator Catharine Beecher (1800878). Women also were trained in drama and debate, whereby they inadvertently received oratorical training. Essentially, viewed as ill-suited to oratory and social advancement and well-suited to nurturing young children, women were trained to teach formulaic, unimaginative lessons in what later became current-traditional rhetoric. The career of the prolific and commercially successful Fanny Fern (the pen name of Sara Payson Willis Parton, 1811872) provides a notable exception to prescribed female roles. Educated at Catharine Beecher's Female Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut, Fern became the first woman newspaper columnist in America.
Advocates for women's equal right to education made early inroads during this period. Oberlin College stands out as one notable success in the early access of women to higher education. In 1833 Oberlin admitted 38 women out of 101 total students into its first college class, and, in 1835 it established the first female literary society in the American collegeshe Young Ladies' Association.
In 1839 the essayist and social reformer Margaret Fuller (1810850), formerly a teacher at Amos Bronson Alcott's Temple School and the Greene Street School in Providence, began a series of public "Conversations" targeting socially active and intellectual women in the Boston area. An accomplished teacher in the transcendentalist tradition, Fuller provided a venue in which women could intimately explore intellectual interests and freely discuss social reform. Spanning five years and expanding the discussion format of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody's earlier lecture series, Fuller's Conversations attracted more than two hundred women and addressed a wide range of topics, such as Greek myths and the fine arts. Many leaders of the feminist movement, including Julia Ward Howe, participated in Fuller's feminist venture.
TRANSCENDENTAL EDUCATION AND THE TEMPLE SCHOOL
From about 1836 to 1860, the American transcendental movement thrived in New England. Initiated as a reform effort of the Unitarian church, a small group of intellectuals in Concord, Massachusetts, developed instead their own philosophies of individual integrity and explored connections among spiritual, social, and the intellectual consciousness. Transcendentalism adopted tenets of Neoplatonism, German idealistic philosophy, and Eastern religious teachings. Influenced by philosopher Immanuel Kant's "transcendental" ideas and expanding upon William Ellery Channing's belief in an indwelling God, the transcendentalists rejected Lockean empiricism and instead embraced intuitive thought. Recognizable figures associated with this literary and philosophical movement include Frederic Henry Hedge, Amos Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau.
Self-educated, Amos Bronson Alcott (1799888) boldly embodied the transcendentalist's ideals. In 1834 Alcott opened a school for thirty elementary-age boys and girls in the Masonic Temple in Boston. The transcendentalists' optimistic emphasis on individualism, self-reliance, and rejection of traditional authority formed the cornerstone of Alcott's Temple School. Working with Peabody and Fuller, Alcott adopted a pedagogy based on Socratic dialogue and established a curriculum that included not only the traditional triumvirate of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also instruction in art, music, exercise, and student government. Abandoning traditional exercises in rote memorization, Alcott designed a curriculum promoting the physical, mental, and spiritual development of his pupils. Although Boston newspapers proclaimed Temple School one of the best common schools in the United States, ultimately the school failed because Alcott's teaching methods fell far afield of mainstream education.
LITERARY AND DEBATING SOCIETIES
Extracurricular activitiesn the form of debating and literary societiesostered an appreciation for literature and provided students the opportunity to polish English composition skills. College courses focused on improving student's Latin and Greek. Although both high school and college students were expected to read widely on their own time, the classical curriculum of most schools did not view English literature as a subject worthy of academic instruction. In fact, the libraries of the literary societies were often the only campus source for contemporary fiction, poetry, biography, or drama. In the literary and debate societies, students addressed contemporary political and philosophical issues and often hosted controversial speakers. For example, at the invitation of student groups, Emersonlthough officially banned from campuspoke at Williams College three times. But the primary focus of the societies from 1820 until their eventual decline was disputation and debate.
The forensic disputation and extempore speech (defined as well-prepared but not yet delivered or memorized papers) were well cultivated in the debating societies. Unlike classroom exercises, which strictly followed Latin syllogistics, the disputations characterizing the societies were delivered in English, included the adoption of emotional proofs and decreased reliance on syllogism as the primary logical appeal. The debating societies held participants to such a high standard that, by 1837, Columbia College felt no need to replicate the societies' efforts and dropped all extemporaneous exercises and debate from the curriculum.
The college model of literary and debating societies was adopted by college preparatory schools. The study of literature was relegated to extracurricular societies until after 1870, following the publication of works such as Culture and Anarchy: An Essay in Political and Social Criticism (1869) by Matthew Arnold (1822888). Arnold, a school inspector in addition to his more famous roles as poet and critic, argued that through the study of culture, public education could maintain traditional values and serve as an agent of social control. Although Arnold did not claim authority for vernacular studies, his argument was appropriated as a rationale for incorporating the realm of literary and debating societies into mainstream curricula.
THE RISE OF PHILOLOGY AND LITERATURE
"The flowering of New England," as Van Wyck Brooks terms the period from 1815 to 1865, fostered the development of a uniquely American literature and the establishment of America's educational legacy. Harvard, in particular, provided the curricular and pedagogical blueprint guiding American higher education. At Harvard, the curriculum was divided along the lines of religion and philosophy, mathematics and science, rhetoric and oratory, and classical and modern languages. Placing great emphasis on the study of languages (and accompanying literature), many well-known writers and critics of the period taught at Harvardublishing scholars who did not confine their literary interests to the classroom. Unlike their predecessors, the Harvard-educated elite of the nineteenth century became professor-scholars, not ministers. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807882), James Russell Lowell (1819891), and Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809894)he Brahmin Poets (as the patrician, Harvard-educated class was known)eld positions at Harvard and augmented traditional rote lessons to include stimulating discussions of literature. From 1836 to 1854 Longfellow served as Smith Professor of Modern Languages, and his homeraigie Houseecame a meeting place for students, as well as literary and philosophical figures, including Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Julia Ward Howe, and Charles Sumner. Before coming to Harvard, Longfellow had been the first professor of modern languages at Bowdoin College, where he wrote his own text for the courseecause none existed. Following Longfellow's retirement from Harvard, Charles Russell Lowell assumed the professorship of modern languages and gained respect not only as a poet but as a critic and educator, as well. The poet Oliver Wendell Holmes established an impressive academic career, first serving as professor of anatomy and physiology at Dartmouth College (1839840), then dean of the Harvard Medical School (1847853) and Parkman Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Harvard (1847882). The study of literature, previously subsumed within courses on rhetoric and language, was coming to the foreground.
The career of the Harvard professor Francis James Child (1825896) most clearly represents the rise of philological studies in American education. Harvard appointed Child the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory in 1851, following the retirement of Edward T. Channing. Although holding the preeminent American chair in rhetoric, Child, inspired by German ideals of scholarship, rejected classical rhetoric and instead lectured passionately on the understanding and appreciation of great literature. When Johns Hopkins offered Child a professorship of literature in 1876, Harvard retained Child by naming him professor of English, a position he held until his death in 1896. Child established himself as a literary scholar, specializing in philological and historical study of literature and, subsequently, transformed a struggling elective subject into a major discipline. Under Child's influence, rhetoric was relegated to first-year composition classes, and literary studies became the focus of American English departments.
James Rolfe is credited for introducing the study of literature into the high school curriculum. From 1848 to 1858 Rolfe taught literature within three different high school districts, and eventually his work drew Child's attention. After receiving an honorary A.M. degree from Harvard in 1859, Rolfe became principle of Cambridge High School in 1862, where he regulated the study of literature, united literary study and philology, and rooted the study of literature within the classical tradition. He adopted a formal method of pedagogy, stressing rote memorization of rules and facts.
During the latter half of the period under consideration, Charles Dexter Cleveland's A Compendium of English Literature (1847) enjoyed widespread adoption in the high schools. Manuals of literary history, which included short articles on English authors, answered college student demand for study in English literature. Arranged chronologically and including no actual works of literature, these essays were designed for rote memorization and recitation. Thomas B. Shaw's Outlines of English Literature (originally published in 1849) was the most widely adopted of these manuals in the American colleges. By 1870 the high school study of literature (joined with philology and studied within the classical tradition) was considered an intellectually rigorous curriculum. Child and Rolfe were instrumental in establishing literature as a legitimate course of study in American schools.
EDUCATION DURING THE CIVIL WAR AND THE MORRILL LAND GRANT ACT
Initially, higher education paid little attention to threats of civil war. Even during the war, many colleges continued to hold classes and sustain university business as long as possible. The effects of war on individual institutions varied, depending on the proximity of schools to the front lines, declining enrollments, and finances. Curriculum varied little, and course offerings at most institutions remained constant during the war, depending on faculty availability.
Following the war, the prewar trend to provide increased funding for developing agricultural and mechanical-sciences curricula continuedssisted in great part by the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, which was signed into effect by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Named after its sponsor, Vermont representative Justin S. Morrill, the legislation was additionally entitled "An Act donating Public Lands to the several States and Territories which may provide Colleges for the Benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts." It provided each state with thirty thousand acres for each senator and representative in Congress under the census of 1860. The states were to sell the land and apply the interest on receipts toward
the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislature of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the pursuits and professions of life. (Quoted in Cowley and Williams, p. 121)
Answering a century-long national call for blending technical and academic instruction (first introduced by Benjamin Franklin in 1749), the Morrill Land Grant Act altered the trajectory of American higher education. This legislation established institutions capable of expanding elective curricula to train students for work in new disciplines and occupations, some of which were unforeseeable in the 1860s.
Educational curricula from 1820 to 1870 are critical in understanding the origins of contemporary American disciplinary studies; yet, this period in American education is understudied. Archival resources from the periodncluding institutional data, school-reform reports, lecture notes, student writings, class plans, society minutes, committee reports, local school legislation, and so forthwait discovery and analysis.
See also Colleges; Education; Literacy; Oratory; Rhetoric
Applebee, Arthur. Tradition and Reform in the Teaching of English: A History. Urbana, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English, 1974.
Berlin, James A. Writing Instruction in Nineteenth-Century American Colleges. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984.
Brooks, Van Wyck. The Flowering of New England, 1815865. New York: Dutton, 1936.
Cowley, W. H., and Don Williams. International and Historical Roots of Higher Education. New York: Garland, 1991.
Golden, James L., and Edward P. J. Corbett. The Rhetoric of Blair, Campbell, and Whately. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1990.
Guthrie, Warren. "The Development of Rhetorical Theory in America, 1635850: The Domination of the English Rhetorics." Speech Monographs 15 (1948): 611.
Johnson, Nan. Nineteenth-Century Rhetoric in North America. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.
Kitzhaber, Albert R. Rhetoric in American Colleges, 1850/i> 1900. Dallas, Tex.: Southern Methodist University Press, 1990.
Schultz, Lucille M. The Young Composers: Composition's Beginnings in Nineteenth-Century Schools. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999.
Stewart, Donald C. "Two Model Teachers and the Harvardization of English Departments." In The Rhetorical Tradition and Modern Writing, edited by James J. Murphy, pp. 11829. New York: Modern Library Association of America, 1982.
Wallace, Karl R., et al., eds. History of Speech Education in America: Background Studies. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1954.
Wright, Elizabethada A., and S. Michael Halloran. "From Rhetoric to Composition: The Teaching of Writing in America to 1900." In A Short History of Writing Instruction: From Ancient Greece to Modern America, edited by James J. Murphy, pp. 21346. Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum, 2001.
Lynée Lewis Gaillet