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Education In The United States

( Originally Published 1912 )



"Education in the United States is not so much disorganized as it is unorganized. It is not so much unorganized as it is the subject of cross and various organizations. It is in certain relations overorganized. The units of organization are many, diverse, and often cover identical conditions."—THWING, " College Administration," p. r.

THE schools of the United States present two characteristics which seem to stand out beyond all others. The first of these is the abiding, almost pathetic, faith of the American people in the virtue and power of formal education, a faith nation-wide and deep-grounded. From the days of the worthy " Nine Men " of New Amsterdam, who, in 1649, protested that " there should be a public school provided with at least two good masters, so that, first of all, in so wild a country, where there are many loose people, the youth be well taught and brought up, not only in reading and writing, but also in the knowledge and fear of the Lord," 1 down to the present time, we may trace the notion that to establish a school is to guarantee sobriety and prosperity.'

The second characteristic, no less striking than this faith in education, is the fierce determination of the American people that their schools shall be clothed only in the conventional raiment of democracy. As a consequence, the schools are jealously guarded against the intrusion of whatever might seem to recognize caste. "In no other country is there so definite a purpose to make the public schools good enough for both rich and poor."' As Dr. Draper states it : " The nation wants more than industrial power. . . . There are no classes' in education. It is the national belief that the true greatness of the nation and the welfare of mankind depend not only upon giving every one his chance, but also upon aiding and inspiring every one to seize his chance."

The concrete result of this belief is to be seen in the organic structure of the American school system.

The words American system are used advisedly, and in the face of the condition that as " each city, each county, and in some States each country district has practically the privilege of conducting its schools in accordance with any whim upon which it may decide, it is but natural that the schools of different cities should vary considerably in their standing." Notwithstanding this variation, the schools throughout the nation have so much in common as to constitute them into something distinctively American. Moreover, the trend is all toward a standardization of structure. So, as we proceed to consider the different groups of schools, we must do so with a consciousness of the proper sense in which the term American School System may be employed.

Infant Education

America has not taken kindly to the idea of having its public schools exercise the function of the day nursery. Hence, in the history of American Education, we have to await the appearance of the Kindergarten, with its broader program, before we see any serious attempt to serve children of infant grade.

It is true that in 1827 an Infant School Society was formed in New York City in the interest of children from three to six years of age, but it was soon incorporated into the New York Public School Society, and its schools merged into the primary departments of the public school system. Similar attempts in other cities met with like meager results.

It was in 1855 that Mrs. Carl Schurz, who had studied under Froebel, established at Watertown, Wis., the first American kindergarten. Of the early kindergartens in the United States, all of which were under private administration, the great majority were organized by Germans and conducted in the German language. The notable exception was the school opened in Boston in 186o by Miss Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, sister-in-law of Horace Mann, and "usually considered the apostle of the kindergarten movement in the United States."

The first public kindergarten was opened by the School Board of St. Louis, Mo., in 1873, under the superintendency of Dr. Harris. It was taught gratuitously by Miss Susan E. Blow, a pupil of Mrs. Kraus-Boelte, with such success as to establish it firmly in the St. Louis system and to encourage similar experiments in other cities.'

In Boston, Mrs. Quincy A. Shaw supported the entire free kindergarten system of the city, from 1876 to 1889, in which year the thirty-six classes to which it had grown were taken over by the city.

Elementary Education

Throughout the length and breadth of the United States, punctuating the landscape with persistent frequency, stands the "district" school-house, built by the people, apostrophized by the poet, lauded by the political orator, and held in fond remembrance by thousands of men and women who credit it with having exercised an influence upon them far out of proportion to its size and superficial appearance.'

Of the total population of the nation, one per-son in every five is enrolled in its public schools ; of this enrollment, one third is in the schools of the cities and larger villages. The prevailing course in the urban schools is eight years, although some 20 per cent of the cities have adopted a nine-year course, thus permitting the pupils to take the curriculum more leisurely or to add a " continuation " year to their normal elementary instruction. Among these cities are Sacramento, Cal., Hartford, Conn., Portland, Me., St. Joseph, Mo., Utica, N.Y., and Buffalo, N.Y. On the contrary, in some places the course is limited to seven years, as in Decatur, Ill., Kansas City, Mo., Mobile, Ala., Asheville, N.C., and many other cities in the Southern States.

The rural school, in many cases, aims high at a formal and extended curriculum, classifies its pupils into "grades," and otherwise seeks a standard difficult of attainment under limited material conditions. When it comes to accomplishment, the rural school gives instruction in the common branches usually more in accord with the demands of its local supporters than in compliance with a theoretically standardized curriculum, and, when it is not too crowded, in an atmosphere of attention to the individual which but infrequently pervades the city classroom.

The need of reform in the organization of the rural school is rapidly becoming recognized in many parts of the country. The chief remedy proposed, to offset the shortcomings resulting from sparseness of population, is in the direction of consolidation of schools. In accordance with this plan the weak schools within a given radius are discontinued and in their stead there is established one strong, graded school, centrally located.

Dr. Foght gives us a picture of this educational phoenix in the following language : "A modern school will rise, near the center of the township, which will afford every opportunity for practical preparation for happy life on the farm. The school will be hygienic, and have modern equipment and better teachers. The course of study will be graded, recitation periods longer, interest well sustained, years in school longer. Pupils living at a distance will be conveyed to school in suitable vehicles, avoiding exposure to inclement weather. Finally consolidated schools can offer ample opportunities for thorough work in nature study, school gardening, and elementary agriculture, as well as manual training and domestic economy."

Massachusetts seems to have been the pioneer in this movement, authorizing consolidation in 1865, and a few years later providing for the conveyance of children at public expense. The State now spends in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million dollars annually for free conveyance. Connecticut and Vermont have also experimented along this line, and the movement is making considerable headway in the States of the Middle West.

A steady advance in the progress of elementary education is shown by the statistics of enrollment. For instance, in 187o the schools were open on an average of 132 days in the year, whereas in 1909 this figure had risen to 155.1 Each pupil enrolled attends on average of 112.6 days, a percentage of attendance exceeding 72.

Auxiliary Education

It has long been conceded in America that society should make provision for its unfortunate blind and deaf. All but five of the States have established institutions wherein instruction is given to the blind, in some cases extending from

With considerable variation in different sections of the country : —

North Atlantic States 179.0
South Atlantic States 138.6
South Central States 123.3
North Central States 164.7
Western States 161.2

the kindergarten to the high school. For the deaf,' in addition to several private schools, all but six States support institutions, there being in 1910 fifty-seven of these, of which New York had eight and Pennsylvania four. There is also a rapidly increasing number of recently established public day schools ; Chicago, New York, Boston, and Milwaukee leading as to size.

In the large cities the class for the deaf in a public day school has distinct advantages over the boarding institution. It accustoms the child to the actual conditions which he is to meet in after life ; it gives him the benefit of contact and competition with normal children (for, as soon as he is able, he takes much of his work in regular classes) ; and it inculcates in the normal children a wholesome respect for the abilities of the afflicted.

In the early part of the nineteenth century the first experiment in the training of imbecile children — fairly successful but short in duration — was made in the American Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb at Hartford, Conn. The first public institution was the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded at Waltham, established in October, 1848. The New York State Institution for Feeble-Minded Children, now located at Syracuse, was established by act of legislature in 185 r. This was shortly followed by similar institutions in Pennsylvania at Elwyn, and in Ohio near Columbus ; and to-day a majority of the States have taken up the work. One of the most successful of the resulting institutions is the New Jersey State Home for the Care and Training of Feeble-Minded Women, and the related Training School for Feeble-Minded Girls and Boys, both situated at Vineland and established in 1888.

The first class for mental defectives was formed in Providence in 1894. This example was followed by Springfield, Mass., in 1894, Boston and Philadelphia in 1899, and New York in 1903.

The interests of auxiliary education are furthered by the National Association for the Study and Education of Exceptional Children, an eleemosynary association incorporated under the laws of the State of New Jersey.

In this connection reference should also be made to over l00 reform schools with more than 50,000 inmates, nearly all of whom have been committed in accordance with State laws and yet have not been guilty of criminal acts. Their commitment rescues them from criminal environment and saves them to honorable citizenship.

For a discussion of the administration of correctional education and the education of defectives, see Dutton-Snedden, op. cit., Chaps.

Secondary Education

Secondary education under the public school system is provided by what is universally known as the " High School," whose roots lie in the old-time English Grammar School.'

In its growth, however, the institution went through an intermediate stage. The grammar schools, which flourished during colonial times, were gradually replaced by the academies, the first of which was established at Philadelphia in 1751. The academies expressed the anticlassical protest, but they were not sufficiently democratic and in turn gave way to the high schools. The first of these was founded in 1821 at Boston under the name " English Classical School," soon changed to " English High School."

Those of the leading American cities which opened public secondary schools prior to 184o, with dates, are : Boston, Mass., 1634 ; Salem, Mass., 1636 ; Portland, Me., 1821 Worcester, Mass., 1824 ; New Bedford, Mass., 1827 ; Fitch-burg, Mass., 183o; Lowell, Mass., 1831 ; Harrisburg, Pa., 1837 ; Philadelphia, Pa., 1838 ; Cambridge, Mass., 1838 ; Taunton, Mass., 1841

Today one person in about every eighty of the population of the United States is enrolled as a student in secondary educational institutions, and of this enrollment more than 8o per cent is in the public high schools.

Turning back the pages of history, we see that the American people have given an even larger degree of attention and support to higher education than to the elementary and secondary schools.

The colonists, especially of New England, brought with them an ideal of culture, which not all the cruel privations of pioneer life could crush. As President Thwing says, referring to the founding of Harvard in r636, " A devotion to the highest ideals, so great and so triumphant, under conditions so forbidding, the world has not known." 1 Thus, as we are reminded by Dr. Flexner : " The American college is not like the common school, indigenous to American soil. It did not spring up to meet a native need. It was imported to meet a need that the colonists brought with them. Hence, a conservative, not an adaptive institution, it bound the emigrant to his past... ."2 This applies to the colleges of the first of the three periods into which we are accustomed to dividing the history of higher education in America. The colonial period was given over to this transplanted English institution, ecclesiastical in its origin, spirit, and control.

In the middle period, beginning just before the Revolution, a new spirit prompted the organization of colleges along more independent lines, beginning with King's (now Columbia) in 1754, and followed some time later by a new type, the State universities, — Tennessee, 1794 ; North Carolina, 1795 ; Georgia, 1801; Indiana, 1820 ; Virginia, 1825 ; etc. Many small denominational colleges were also founded during this period.'

The third (modern) period began at the last third of the nineteenth century. Speaking of its origin, President Thwing says : "A new day was about to dawn in the academic world. Its significance was largely unknown to those who lived in its morning. But seen from a distance of a generation, its coming was full of meaning. Three causes at least contributed to the intellectual sunrise." These causes were : the Civil War, commercial prosperity, and the scientific movement. Under this stimulus came such institutions as Cornell, 1868, Johns Hopkins, 1876, Clark, 1889, Leland Stanford, Jr., 1891, University of Chicago, 1892, and many technical schools of high rank. The period is also marked by the striking development of the post-graduate system.

The most significant feature of the American institution for higher education is its lack of standardization. The terms college and university have a distinguishing content theoretically, which is illustrated but meagerly in practice. Dr. Eliot clearly states the distinction as follows :

When the American university is properly organized, it will become clear to the public that a college is a place of training for the first degree in arts or science obtainable at about twenty-one years of age, and that a university is a place for older students who already possess the preliminary degree in arts or science, and are studying for higher degrees in large variety."

Comparatively few of our institutions, however, measure up to this scheme of organization. We have the spectacle of ill-equipped institutions calling themselves universities when their resources are taxed to the utmost in giving a proper collegiate training to their students. On the other hand a few "colleges " are effectively active in the sphere of university work. Leading educators realize the waste that is involved in this chaotic condition, though few might care to defend the thesis stated by Professor Ladd in the concluding paragraph of the forceful quotation which follows.

" ... There can be no doubt that the great majority of the institutions now called 'universities ' should renounce both the name and the pretence of the thing. Only those few institutions that have already acquired large resources of famous men and established courses and equipment for the highest instruction, and that can hope to draw from their own and from other colleges a sufficient constituency of pupils already trained in a thorough secondary education, should strive to develop themselves into universities. Large means for scientific research — libraries, museums, observatories, etc.—are indispensable for this development. A complement of professional schools, with their faculties, is also, if not in-dispensable, at least highly important. I venture to assert that not more than a half-dozen (?) universities should be developed in the entire country during the next generation, and that no new institutions to bear that name should, on any grounds whatever, be founded."

It is evident that there is to-day neither a standard American college nor a standard American university, although our best ideals of the former are exemplified by several institutions. The college typical in accordance with this ideal admits students who have had four years of secondary training and offers them an option of two or three main lines of work extending over four years and leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, or Bachelor of Letters, according to the character of the course pursued. University work, in lines other than professional, is largely a matter of post-graduate study at a college or university which has developed courses of this grade, but continues to maintain its collegiate department. Degrees of Master of Arts and Master of Science, after one or two years' work, and those of Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Science, after two or three years' work, are the principal diplomas awarded.

There are in the United States over 600 institutions of higher education, public and private, with an enrollment rapidly approaching 200,000.

The classical course, in spite of the present trend away from these studies, still enlists more students than does general science.

There is much current criticism of the American college, aside from this of its indefiniteness, much of which is sane and constructive, but some of which is no better than a phase of the general attack made upon culture by those who cannot comprehend it.

Of this latter sort, the following—here noted because al-ready given a wide circulation — is a type. " It is conservative to estimate that the expense of higher education to this nation must be at least $100,000,000 a year. And this enormous sum is literally thrown away, much to the injury of the country and its people." This is the thesis formulated and defended by Mr. R. T. Crane in a book which he is pleased to call an " investigation." In a metallic atmosphere of dollars and cents he finds it easy thus to dispose of the whole problem of education in some three hundred pages.

More helpful is the criticism of Mr. Birdseye, whose thought is : " The great problem of our colleges has to do, not with the institution, but with the life of the individual student. .. . Yet, notwithstanding the immense increase of institutional wealth, the average student is not getting what he ought out of his college career, nor as much of real value for his later life as did his predecessor of fifty or a hundred years ago." 1 The avowed purpose of his books is " to lift college organization to the plane of the best with which we are familiar in the business world."

A tangible evidence of the spirit of constructive criticism is seen in the Higher Education Association, incorporated at Albany, in 1909, " to improve higher education throughout the United States and in particular the internal and external conditions of the American college."

Vocational Education

In the larger cities evening schools have been established and are attended by some 400,000 pupils. Most of these schools primarily serve other purposes, but they are vocational in the sense that their students receive a supplementary education of elementary grade that contributes in some measure toward their vocational efficiency. Moreover, some of the schools make a point of giving elementary training in distinctively vocational subjects, notably commercial branches.

That the State shall utilize the school organization as a means of extending opportunity to pupils to qualify for industrial employment is so new a proposition to the American people that they have not yet developed even the rudiments of a system in this respect.

There have appeared in recent years a few schools, such as the Lowell Textile School, whose aim is to train for specific trades. These schools are not numerous, but the beginning is significant, as indicating a tendency to recognize the value of special training as a means of developing expert labor. Belonging to schools of this class, but less formally organized, should be mentioned schools or courses of training offered by such manufacturing institutions as the Baldwin Locomotive Works.'

The Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1910 gives a list of 142 schools in the United States which offer training for specific vocations in the industries. "The number of trade schools proper is small, the greater number of those in the list offering only intermediate or supplementary training." " In general, there may be said to be three types or grades of industrial training : (I) Complete trade training, in which the effort is made to graduate finished mechanics or skilled workers capable of doing journeymen's work and earning journeymen's wages. (2) Intermediate, or preapprentice, trade training, in which it is sought to shorten the period of apprenticeship or to give skill and intelligence preparatory to an industrial occupation. (3) Industrial improvement or supplementary instruction for those already engaged in industrial pursuits. It will be seen that some schools offer all three of these types, some offer two of them, and others offer only one."

The condition is set forth by the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education, in their second annual convention, 1908, as follows : " There are practically no facilities for the training of the youth between the ages of fourteen and eighteen for industrial pursuits, and the opportunities for those who are in the trades to improve their skill by theoretical training is confined to isolated and occasional schools. It is also perfectly clear that this is an industrial age, and that the education which is to serve for a whole people must take account of vocational training."

The mistake is often made of assuming that the introduction of the subject of manual training into the public schools is a concession to the interests of industrial education. The main purpose of the subject, in either the elementary or secondary curriculum, is cultural and not vocational. Nevertheless, several manual training high schools, organized independently, have put such an emphasis upon the vocational phase that we might be justified in classing these particular schools as institutions for industrial education.

Twenty years ago the subject of manual training was found in the public schools of less than forty cities, whereas to-day it appears in more than half of all the cities of the land. The first distinctive manual training high school was founded in 188o at St. Louis, and was followed within a half-dozen years by similar schools in Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Denver, Omaha, etc.

In the matter of secondary-grade commercial education there is no uncertainty. While this form of education is yet chiefly in the hands of private proprietors, the typical high schools in the larger cities have their commercial departments in which the aim is frankly to prepare pupils for vocational efficiency. In several of the largest cities, supporting more than one general high school, the commercial school exists as a separate and distinct organization. " The Minnesota School of Agriculture, which was established by the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota in 1888, was the first distinctly secondary school in the United States in which agricultural instruction was given."

In respect to vocational teaching of collegiate rank there is no lack of productive effort. The first technical school was the Rensselaer Poly-technic Institute, Troy, founded in 1824. The Sheffield School at Yale came in 1859, and today our colleges have nearly as many students enrolled in engineering alone as in the classical department. The first institution to provide commercial education of collegiate grade was the University of Pennsylvania, in 1881, followed by the Universities of Wisconsin, California, Chicago, Michigan, and others. The New York University School of Commerce is distinctively professional in character — its work is not a substitute for a course in arts or science. Harvard has created the degree of Master in Business Administration to be conferred on graduates from the graduate school of business administration.

Most systematic accomplishment has been made in collegiate teaching of agriculture, chiefly owing to the stimulus of land grants for this purpose from the national government to the States. Michigan was the pioneer State, its constitution of 185o providing for an agricultural school whose establishment was effected seven years later. To-day every State has its agricultural college or collegiate department, with a total enrollment through-out the country of some seven thousand students.

" There is a National Association of these colleges which aims to make them equal in rank and entrance conditions to other first-class colleges, so that the bachelor's degree in the former shall have the same value as it has in the latter. Six of these institutions conduct secondary schools. They also hold long and short, summer, winter, correspondence, extension, and normal courses, and conduct farmers' institutes all over the State. Some courses last only a week or ten days, and admit boys. They teach forestry, dairying, stock judging, manuring, entomology, birds, foddering, poultry, grasses, floriculture, etc. No discovery in these stations can be patented, but all must be given out. Even the Babcock Machine, used the world over and saving millions of dollars, profited the inventor nothing. Forty of these colleges offer graduate courses leading to the degree of A.M., and nine grant the Ph.D."

The present status of this subject, as well as a word of prophecy, is indicated by the following excerpt from Professor Davenport's "Education for Efficiency." "Agriculture has earned an honorable place in some of the great universities in America, where with respect both to research and instruction, it is beginning to compare favorably with other professional and scientific subjects. It will never, however, really reach the masses of the people in an adequate way until it attains in the high school the same relative rank it has already attained in the college, nor will the work of its extension be fully done until in some form its influence has permeated into the grades."

In the professional group there is no dearth of schools operated under private auspices. Some of these are independent institutions, but many others are but integral departments of a college or university engaged in several lines of work.

In passing, attention should also be drawn to a fifth group of vocations, at present insignificant as to tangible systematic recognition of its needs, but nevertheless highly important in its far-reaching influence upon the welfare of the homes of the nation and hence of the nation itself. "The organization of the American Home Economics Association, Washington, December, 1908, has given a new impetus to one of the most important branches of our industrial education, that which is commonly known as domestic economy or domestic science." 1 As it is, 1500 students are already enrolled in regular four-year collegiate courses in household economy.

Education of Girls

Although the justice and expediency of granting to girls even an elementary education at public expense was but tardily recognized, to-day there are in the United States over one hundred institutions of higher learning for women exclusively, and women constitute fully one third of the total number of students enrolled in collegiate schools of all kinds.

It was not until Revolutionary days that girls were admitted to the public schools of even so progressive a town as Boston. Some of the academies of New England were open to girls as early as the closing years of the eighteenth century, but it was much later that a public secondary education of any kind was available to them. The opening of the Girls' Latin School, in 1878, gave Boston girls their first opportunity to be fitted for college. In Philadelphia, no girls could be prepared for college in the public schools before 1893. The opening to women of higher institutions of learning began with the founding of Oberlin Collegiate Institute, in 1833, which from the beginning was coeducational. The first institution exclusively for women was Mt. Holyoke, chartered in 1836 ; this was followed a year later by the Troy Female Seminary. In I861, Matthew Vassar founded the Vassar Female College, with the statement that "It seemed to me that woman, having received from her Creator the same intellectual constitution as man, has the same right to intellectual culture and development."

Throughout the elementary schools coeducation is the general policy— at least it is the prevailing practice. In secondary education, too, the majority of high schools are coeducational.' In the range of higher education many colleges have followed the initiative of Oberlin, and opened their gates to women. With but one or two exceptions all of the State universities are coeducational, and, in all, more than two thirds of the higher institutions which admit men also admit women on favorable if not on equal terms. The University of Wisconsin is one of the foremost exponents of coeducation, indicated by the resolution of the Board of Regents that " men and women shall be equally entitled to membership in all classes of the university, and there shall be no discrimination on account of sex in granting scholarships or fellowships in any of the colleges or departments of the university."

Mrs. Olin, in a recent book, discusses the advance of women in this institution and generally in the colleges of the Middle West. She supports the argument for coeducation and equal opportunity for women in vigorous language, of which the following unequivocal excerpt is illustrative : "Social problems now being clumsily fumbled by faculties of men might find easy solution if masculine impatience and incapacity in practical dealing with such problems were not as inevitable as they are notorious. No social question can be satisfactorily settled with so large an eclipse of human intelligence as is involved in the practical exclusion of women from the faculties of co-educational institutions."



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