The American educator Horace Mann once said: "As an apple is not in any proper sense an apple until it is ripe, so a human being is not in any proper sense a human being until he is educated." Education is the process through which people endeavor to pass along to their children their hard-won wisdom and their aspirations for a better world. This process begins shortly after birth, as parents seek to train the infant to behave as their culture demands. They soon, for instance, teach the child how to turn babbling sounds into language and, through example and precept, they try to instill in the child the attitudes, values, skills, and knowledge that will govern their offspring 's behavior throughout later life. Schooling, or formal education, consists of experiences that are deliberately planned and utilized to help young people learn what adults consider important for them to know and to help teach them how they should respond to choices.


While almost everyone accepts the goal of developing skill in the three "R's"--reading, writing, and arithmetic--it often seems impossible to reach agreement on any goal beyond that. In the broadest terms the conflict about educational goals can be viewed as a conflict between conservatives and liberals, or, as they are sometimes called, essentialists and progressives.

The conservatives, or essentialists, tend to identify a desirable education with the transmission of the cultural heritage, a no-nonsense curriculum featuring the three R's at the elementary-school level and academic studies or strong vocational or business courses in the secondary school. They stress training of the mind and cultivation of the intellect.

The liberals, or progressives, tend to be interested in the development of the whole child, not merely in training the child's mind or in preparing the child for adult life in a remote future. They emphasize rich, meaningful school living in the present, and they view subject matter as a resource for total human development rather than as a goal in itself. They do not downgrade content but believe it should be acquired not for its own sake but as a means of fostering thought and inquiry.

Conservatives and liberals differ in their views of man and answers to basic questions such as: (1) Why teach? (2) What should be taught? (3) What teaching methods should be used? (4) Who should teach? (5) What is the best setting for learning? (6) How long should schooling continue? To fully understand present conservative and liberal theories and practices, something must be known about the history of education.


In the absence of written records, no one can be sure what education man first provided for his children. Most anthropologists believe, though, that the educational practices of prehistoric times were probably like those of primitive tribes in the 20th century, such as the Australian aborigines and the Aleuts. Formal instruction was probably given just before the child's initiation into adulthood--the puberty rite--and involved tribal customs and beliefs too complicated to be learned by direct experience. Children learned most of the skills, duties, customs, and beliefs of the tribe through an informal apprenticeship--by taking part in such adult activities as hunting, fishing, farming, toolmaking, and cooking. In such simple tribal societies, school was not a special place--it was life itself.

Early Civilizations

With the gradual rise of more complex civilizations in the river valleys of Egypt and Babylonia, knowledge became too complicated to transmit directly from person to person and from generation to generation. To be able to function in complex societies, man needed some way of accumulating, recording, and preserving his cultural heritage. So with the rise of trade, government, and formal religion came the invention of writing, by about 3100 BC.

Because firsthand experience in everyday living could not teach such skills as writing and reading, a place devoted exclusively to learning--the school--appeared. And with the school appeared a group of adults specially designated as teachers--the scribes of the court and the priests of the temple. The children were either in the vast majority who continued to learn exclusively by an informal apprenticeship or the tiny minority who received formal schooling.

The method of learning was memorization, and the motivation was the fear of harsh physical discipline. On an ancient Egyptian clay tablet discovered by archaeologists, a child had written: "Thou didst beat me and knowledge entered my head." (See also Babylonia and Assyria ; Egypt, Ancient .)

Of the ancient peoples of the Middle East, the Jews were the most insistent that all children--regardless of class--be educated. In the 1st century AD, the historian Flavius Josephus wrote: "We take most pains of all with the instruction of the children and esteem the observance of the laws and the piety corresponding with them the most important affair of our whole life." The Jews established elementary schools where boys from about 6 to 13 years of age probably learned rudimentary mathematics and certainly learned reading and writing. The main concern was the study of the first five books of the Old Testament--the Pentateuch--and the precepts of the oral tradition that had grown up around them. At age 13, brighter boys could continue their studies as disciples of a rabbi, the "master" or "teacher." So vital was the concept of instruction for the Jews that the synagogues existed at least as much for education as for worship.

Ancient Greece

The Greek gods were much more down-to-earth and much less awesome than the remote gods of the East. Because they were endowed with human qualities and often represented aspects of the physical world--such as the sun, the moon, and the sea--they were closer to man and to the world he lived in. The Greeks, therefore, could find spiritual satisfaction in the ordinary, everyday world. They could develop a secular life free from the domination of a priesthood that exacted homage to gods remote from everyday life. The goal of education in the Greek city-states was to prepare the child for adult activities as a citizen. The nature of the city-states varied greatly, and this was also true of the education they considered appropriate. The goal of education in Sparta, an authoritarian, military city-state, was to produce soldier-citizens. On the other hand, the goal of education in Athens, a democratic city-state, was to produce citizens trained in the arts of both peace and war. (See also Greece, Ancient .)

Sparta. The boys of Sparta were obliged to leave home at the age of 7 to join sternly disciplined groups under the supervision of a hierarchy of officers. From age 7 to 18, they underwent an increasingly severe course of training. They walked barefoot, slept on hard beds, and worked at gymnastics and other physical activities such as running, jumping, javelin and discus throwing, swimming, and hunting. They were subjected to strict discipline and harsh physical punishment; indeed, they were taught to take pride in the amount of pain they could endure.

At 18, Spartan boys became military cadets and learned the arts of war. At 20, they joined the state militia--a standing reserve force available for duty in time of emergency--in which they served until they were 60 years old.

The typical Spartan may or may not have been able to read. But reading, writing, literature, and the arts were considered unsuitable for the soldier-citizen and were therefore not part of his education. Music and dancing were a part of that education, but only because they served military ends. (See also Sparta .)

Unlike the other Greek city-states, Sparta provided training for girls that went beyond the domestic arts. The girls were not forced to leave home, but otherwise their training was similar to that of the boys. They too learned to run, jump, throw the javelin and discus, and wrestle. The Athenians apparently made sport of the physique prized in Spartan women, for in a comedy by the Athenian playwright Aristophanes a character says to a Spartan girl:

How lovely thou art, how blooming thy skin, how rounded thy flesh! What a prize! Thou mightest strangle a bull.

Athens. In Athens the ideal citizen was a person educated in the arts of both peace and war, and this made both schools and exercise fields necessary. Other than requiring two years of military training that began at age 18, the state left parents to educate their sons as they saw fit. The schools were private, but the tuition was low enough so that even the poorest citizens could afford to send their children for at least a few years.

Boys attended elementary school from the time they were about age 6 or 7 until they were 13 or 14. Part of their training was gymnastics. The younger boys learned to move gracefully, do calisthenics, and play ball and other games. The older boys learned running, jumping, boxing, wrestling, and discus and javelin throwing. The boys also learned to play the lyre and sing, to count, and to read and write. But it was literature that was at the heart of their schooling. The national epic poems of the Greeks--Homer's `Odyssey' and `Iliad' --were a vital part of the life of the Athenian people. As soon as their pupils could write, the teachers dictated passages from Homer for them to take down, memorize, and later act out. Teachers and pupils also discussed the feats of the Greek heroes described by Homer. The education of mind, body, and aesthetic sense was, according to Plato, so that the boys "may learn to be more gentle, and harmonious, and rhythmical, and so more fitted for speech and action; for the life of man in every part has need of harmony and rhythm."

At 13 or 14, the formal education of the poorer boys probably ended and was followed by apprenticeship at a trade. The wealthier boys continued their education under the tutelage of philosopher-teachers. Until about 390 BC there were no permanent schools and no formal courses for such higher education. Socrates, for example, wandered around Athens, stopping here or there to hold discussions with the people about all sorts of things pertaining to the conduct of man's life. But gradually, as groups of students attached themselves to one teacher or another, permanent schools were established. It was in such schools that Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle taught.

The boys who attended these schools fell into more or less two groups. Those who wanted learning for its own sake studied with philosophers like Plato who taught such subjects as geometry, astronomy, harmonics (the mathematical theory of music), and arithmetic. Those who wanted training for public life studied with philosophers like Isocrates who taught primarily oratory and rhetoric. In democratic Athens such training was appropriate and necessary because power rested with the men who had the ability to persuade their fellow senators to act. Most Athenian girls had a primarily domestic education. The most highly educated women were the hetaerae, or courtesans, who attended special schools where they learned to be interesting companions for the men who could afford to maintain them. (See also Athens .)

Ancient Rome

The military conquest of Greece by Rome in 146 BC resulted in the cultural conquest of Rome by Greece. As the Roman poet Horace said, "Captive Greece took captive her rude conqueror and brought the arts to Latium." Actually, Greek influence on Roman education had begun about a century before the conquest. Originally, most if not all of the Roman boy's education took place at home. If the father himself were educated, the boy would learn to read and would learn Roman law, history, and customs. The father also saw to his son's physical training. When the boy was older, he sometimes prepared himself for public life by a kind of apprenticeship to one of the orators of the time. He thus learned the arts of oratory firsthand by listening to the debates in the Senate and in the public forum. The element introduced into Roman education by the Greeks was book learning.

When they were 6 or 7 years old, boys (and sometimes girls) of all classes could be sent by their parents to the ludus publicus, the elementary school, where they studied reading, writing, and counting. At age 12 or 13, the boys of the upper classes attended a "grammar" school where they learned Latin or Greek or both and studied grammar and literature. Grammar consisted of the study of declensions and conjugations and the analysis of verbal forms. Both Greek and Latin literature were studied. The teacher would read the work and then lecture on it, while the students took notes that they later memorized. At age 16, the boys who wanted training for public service went on to study public speaking at the rhetoric schools.

The graded arrangement of schools established in Rome by the middle of the 1st century BC ultimately spread throughout the Roman Empire. It continued until the fall of the empire in the 5th century AD.

Although deeply influenced by Greek education, Roman education was nonetheless quite different. For most Greeks, the end of education was to produce a good citizen, and a good citizen meant a well-rounded individual. The goal of Roman education was the same, but for the Romans a good citizen meant an effective speaker. The result was that they disregarded such nonutilitarian Greek studies as science, philosophy, music, dancing, and gymnastics, basing their education instead on literature and oratory. Even their study of literature, with its overemphasis on the technicalities of grammar and its underemphasis on content, had the purpose of producing good orators.

When the Roman Republic became an empire, in 31 BC, the school studies lost even their practical value. For then it was not the orator in the Senate but the emperor who had the power.

Because of the emphasis on the technical study of language and literature and because the language and literature studied represented the culture of a foreign people, Roman education was remote from the real world and the interests of the schoolboys. Vigorous discipline was therefore necessary to motivate them to study. And the Roman boys were not the last to suffer in this situation. When the empire fell, the education that was originally intended to train orators for the Roman Senate became the model for European education and dominated it until the 20th century.

The Romans also left the legacy of their language. For nearly a thousand years after the fall of the empire, Latin continued to be the language spoken in commerce, public service, education, and the Roman Catholic church. Most books written in Europe until about the year 1200 were written in Latin. (See also Roman Empire .)

The Middle Ages

The invading Germanic tribes that moved into the civilized world of the West and all but destroyed ancient culture provided virtually no formal education for their young. In the early Middle Ages the elaborate Roman school system had disappeared. Mankind in 5th-century Europe might well have reverted almost to the level of primitive education had it not been for the medieval church, which preserved what little Western learning had survived the collapse of the Roman Empire. In the drafty, inhospitable corridors of church schools, the lamp of learning continued to burn low, though it flickered badly.

Cathedral, monastic, and palace schools were operated by the clergy in parts of Western Europe. Most students were future or present members of the clergy, though a few lay students were trained to be clerks. Unlike the Greek and Roman schools, which sought to prepare men for this life, the church schools sought to prepare men for life beyond the grave through the contemplation of God during their life on Earth. The schools taught students to read Latin so that they could copy and thereby preserve and perpetuate the writings of the Church Fathers. Students learned the rudiments of mathematics so that they could calculate the dates of religious festivals, and they practiced singing so that they could take part in church services.

Unlike the Greeks, who considered physical health a part of education, the church considered the human body a part of the profane world and therefore something to be ignored or harshly disciplined. The students attended schools that were dreary and cold, and physical activity was severely repressed.

Schools were ungraded--a 6-year-old and a 16-year-old (or an adult for that matter) sometimes sharing the same bench. Medieval education can be understood better if one realizes that for thousands of years childhood as it is known today literally did not exist. No psychological distinction was made between child and adult. The medieval school was not really intended for children. Rather, it was a kind of vocational school for clerks and clergymen. A 7-year-old in the Middle Ages became an integral part of the adult world, absorbing adult knowledge and doing a man's work as best he could during what today would be the middle years of elementary education. It was not until the 18th century that childhood was recognized; not until the 20th that it began to be understood.

The 12th and 13th centuries, toward the end of the Middle Ages, saw the rise of the universities. The university curriculum in about 1200 consisted of what were then called the seven liberal arts. These were grouped into two divisions. The first was the preparatory trivium: grammar, rhetoric, and logic. The second, more advanced division was the quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

Like the Romans, the scholars of the Middle Ages took over the content of Greek education and adapted it to their own culture. The traditional subjects were clouded with religious assumptions. Astronomy, for example, was permeated by astrology, and arithmetic was full of mystical meaning:

There are 22 sextarii in a bushel because God in the beginning made 22 works; there are 22 generations from Adam to Jacob; and 22 books of the Old Testament as far as Esther and 22 letters of the alphabet out of which the divine law is composed.

For the Middle Ages knowledge was an authoritative body of revealed truth. It was not for the scholar to observe nature and to test, question, and discover truth for himself but to interpret and expound accepted doctrines. Thus the medieval scholar might debate about how many angels could stand on the head of a pin, but he did not question the existence of angels.

To the credit of medieval education, by the 12th century the education of women was no longer ignored, though only a small percentage of girls actually attended schools. Most convents educated women, as is shown by the famous letters of the French nun Héloïse, who received a classical education at the nunnery of Argenteuil before becoming its abbess. Early in the 12th century, girls from noble families were enrolled at Notre Dame de Paris in the classes of the French theologian and philosopher Peter Abelard (see Abelard ).

Medieval education had its problems. There were many dropouts; the influence of the church sometimes drugged rather than enlivened the mind; and scholars were often expected to accept the unreasoned and the unproved. Materials were few and poor. Many university libraries had fewer than a hundred volumes. Because books were so scarce, lessons had to be dictated and then memorized. Nevertheless, medieval schooling ended the long era of barbarism, launched the careers of able men, and sharpened the minds and tongues of the thoughtful and ambitious students.

For youngsters of the aristocracy in the Middle Ages of the 13th century, there was chivalric education. This was a kind of secondary education that young men received while living in the homes of nobles or at court. It included some poetry, national history, heraldry, manners and customs, physical training, dancing, a little music, and battle skills. Chivalric, secular education was governed by a code rather than a curriculum. Boys of the lower classes could learn a trade through apprenticeship in a craftsman's shop. (See also Middle Ages .)

The Renaissance

The essence of the Renaissance, which began in Italy in the 14th century and spread to northern European countries in the 15th and 16th centuries, was a revolt against the narrowness and otherworldliness of the Middle Ages. For inspiration the early Renaissance humanists turned to the ideals expressed in the literature of ancient Greece. Like the Greeks, they wanted education to develop man's intellectual, spiritual, and physical powers for the enrichment of life.

The actual content of the humanists' "liberal education" was not much different from that of medieval education. To the seven liberal arts, the humanists added history and physical games and exercises. Humanist education was primarily enlivened by the addition of Greek to the curriculum and an emphasis on the content of Greek and Roman literature. After nearly a thousand years grammar at last was studied not as an end in itself but because it gave access to the vital content of literature. In keeping with their renewed interest in and respect for nature, the humanists also gradually purged astronomy of many of the distortions of astrology.

Along with the changed attitudes toward the goals and the content of education, in a few innovative schools, came the first signs of a change in attitude toward educational methods. Rather than bitter medicine to be forced down the students' throats, education was to be exciting, pleasant, and fun.

The school that most closely embodied these early Renaissance ideals was founded in Mantua, Italy, in 1423 by Vittorino da Feltre. Even the name of his school, Casa Giocosa (Happy House), broke with the medieval tradition of cheerless institutions in which grammar--along with Holy Writ--was flogged into the learner 's memory.

The school served children from age six to youths in their mid-twenties. The pupils studied history, philosophy, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy, but the basis of the curriculum was the study of Greek and Roman literature. Physical development was encouraged through exercise and games.

The humanist ideal did not affect the lower classes, who remained as ignorant as they had been in the Middle Ages. Its impact was appreciable, however, on the secondary education that was provided for the upper classes. This is not to say that there was a proliferation of Happy Houses. Unlike Vittorino's school, the other Latin grammar schools that introduced Greek and Roman literature into the curriculum soon shifted the emphasis-- as the Romans had done--from the study of the content of the literature to the form of the language. The physical development so important to the early humanist ideal of the well-rounded man found no place in the curriculum. Instead of the joy of learning, there was harsh, repressive discipline. (See also Renaissance .)

The Reformation

The degeneration in practice of the early humanists' educational goals and methods continued during the 16th-century Reformation and its aftermath. The religious conflict that dominated men 's thoughts also dominated the "humanistic" curriculum of the Protestant secondary schools. The Protestants' need to defend their new religion resulted in the further sacrifice of "pagan" content and more emphasis on drill in the mechanics of the Greek and Latin languages. In actual practice, then, the humanistic ideal deteriorated into the narrowness and otherworldliness that the original humanists had opposed.

The Protestants emphasized the need for universal education and established elementary vernacular schools in Germany where the children of the poor could learn reading, writing, and religion. This innovation was to have far-reaching effects on education in the Western world. (See also Reformation .)

17th- and 18th-Century Europe

The vast majority of schools remained in a state of stagnation during the 17th and 18th centuries. By and large, the teachers were incompetent and the discipline cruel. The learning methods were drill and memorization of words, sentences, and facts that the children often did not understand. Most members of the lower classes got no schooling whatsoever, and what some did get was at the hands of teachers who often were themselves barely educated.

In the secondary Latin grammar schools and the universities the linguistic narrowness and otherworldliness of classical studies persisted. By the 17th century the study of Latin removed students even farther from real life than it had in the 16th, because Latin had ceased to be the language of commerce or the exclusive language of religion. In the 17th century it also slowly ceased to be even the exclusive language of scholarly discourse. Yet most humanist schools made no provision for studying the vernacular and clung to Latin because it was thought to "train" the mind. The scientific movement--with its skeptical, inquiring spirit--that began to permeate the Western world in the 17th century was successfully barred from both the Catholic and Protestant schools, which continued to emphasize classical linguistic studies.

Although the general state of education was retrogressive, there were some advanced educators and philosophers. Their ideas about learning pointed toward the educational revolution of the 20th century.

The 17th century. One of the educational pioneers of great stature was John (Johann) Amos Comenius (1592-1670). Effective education, Comenius insisted, must take into account the nature of the child. His own observations of children led him to the conclusion that they were not miniature adults. He characterized the schools, which treated them as if they were, as "the slaughterhouses of minds" and "places where minds are fed on words." Comenius believed that understanding comes "not in the mere learning the names of things, but in the actual perception of the things themselves." Education should begin, therefore, with the child's observation of actual objects or, if not the objects themselves, models or pictures of them. The practical result of this theory was Comenius' `Orbis Pictus' (The World in Pictures), the first--and for a long time the only--textbook in the Western world that had illustrations for children to look at. Although the ideas on which it was based were at first ridiculed, Comenius' book was widely used by children for about 200 years.

In the 17th century philosophers, too, were beginning to develop theories of learning that reflected the new scientific reliance on firsthand observation. One of the men whose theories had the greatest impact on education was the English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704). According to Locke (who did not originate the idea but gave impetus to it), the mind at birth is a blank tablet (tabula rasa). That is, it has no innate, God-given knowledge. But it does have a number of powers or faculties, such as perceiving, discriminating, comparing, thinking, and recalling. Locke believed that knowledge comes when these faculties are exercised upon the raw material of sense impressions received from objects in the external world. Once the mind has passively received such sense impressions, its faculties go to work--discriminating among and comparing them, sifting and sorting them until they take shape as "knowledge."

One aspect of Locke's theory--the notion that the mind is made up of "faculties"--was interpreted to mean that the function of schooling was to "train " the various mental faculties. Latin and mathematics, for example, were thought to be especially good for strengthening reason and memory. This idea clung to educational practice well into the 20th century--long after "faculty" psychology had been proved invalid.

The more significant aspect of the theory, in terms of educational reform, was the insistence upon firsthand experience with its implicit protest against the mere book learning of the Middle Ages and the humanists. If the raw material of knowledge comes from the impressions made upon the mind by natural objects, then education cannot function without objects. Eventually, the effect of this part of the theory was reflected in the introduction into the schools of pictures, models, field trips, and other manifestations of education's increased respect for firsthand observation. By the mid-19th century it had become fashionable to introduce into schools objects that provided firsthand sense impressions and that filled out, supplemented, and gave interest to abstract book learning. The materials and the methods of traditional book learning were not radically revised, however, for another 75 years. (See also Learning ; Locke, John .)

The 18th century. It was the delayed shock waves of the ideas of an 18th-century Frenchman that were to crack the foundations of education in the 20th century and cause their virtual upheaval in the United States. The man was Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78). The child, as Rousseau saw him, unfolds or develops--intellectually, physically, and emotionally--much like a plant.

He believed, moreover, that the child is innately good but that all social institutions, including schools, are evil, distorting the child into their own image. He doubted, therefore, that there should be formal schools at all. Whether there were or not, however, he believed that the aim of education should be the natural development of the learner.

Rousseau's observations and their educational ramifications were a complete reversal of the educational theories and practices of the 1700s. The prevailing theory was that the child differs from the adult in the quantity of his mind. The child, presumably, is born with the same, but weaker, mental faculties as the adult. To bring his faculties up to an adult level, education must cultivate them through exercise--that is, through drill and memorization. Rousseau, however, believed that the child differs from the adult in the quality of his mind, which successively unfolds in different stages of growth. "We are always looking for the man in the child," he said, "without thinking what he is before he becomes a man."

" Children," observed Rousseau, "are always in motion: a sedentary life is injurious." From age 2 to 12, therefore, Rousseau envisioned the cultivation of the body and the senses, not the intellect. When the youngster's intellect begins to develop, at about 12 to 15, he can begin the study of such things as science and geography.

The study, however, should begin not with an organized body of abstract knowledge but with the things that interest the child in the world around him. He must learn not by memorizing but by firsthand experience. "He is not to learn science: he is to find it out for himself," Rousseau said. Only when he is 15 should book learning begin. So much for the entire Latin school if one accepted Rousseau.

Rousseau also attacked the teaching methods of his time. The theory of mental faculties recognized no innate differences among children. It was thought that children are born with the same faculties, and that the differences among them depend on their education--that is, on the amount of "exercise" their faculties receive. For Rousseau such exercise stunts "the true gifts of nature".

Since Rousseau believed that the child is innately good and that the aim of education should be his natural development, there was little for the teacher to do except stand aside and watch. Rousseau' s overemphasis of the individuality and freedom of the child and his underemphasis of the needs of the child as a social being represent a reaction against the repressive educational practices of the time. Those who were influenced by Rousseau tried to create schools that would provide a controlled environment in which natural growth could take place and at the same time be guided by society in the person of the teacher.

Ironically, shortly after Rousseau's death Prussia became the first modern state to create a centrally controlled school system. For more than a century it operated on principles almost diametrically opposed to those of Rousseau. ( See also Rousseau, Jean-Jacques .)

Colonial America

While the schools that the colonists established in the 17th century in the New England, Southern, and Middle colonies differed from one another, each reflected a concept of schooling that had been left behind in Europe. Most poor children learned through apprenticeship and had no formal schooling at all. Those who did go to elementary school were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion. Learning consisted of memorizing, which was stimulated by whipping. The secondary school, attended by the wealthier children, was, as in most of Europe, the Latin grammar school. The teachers were no better prepared, and perhaps less so, than the teachers in Europe.

Harvard College, which traces its history to 1636, had as its primary purpose the training of Latin school graduates for the ministry. Like most of the colleges in Europe, its curriculum was humanist.

Most of the books used in the elementary and secondary schools were also used in Europe: Bibles, psalters, Latin and Greek texts, Comenius' `Orbis Pictus', and the hornbook, which was widely used in England at the end of the 16th century. Not really a book at all, the hornbook was a paddle-shaped board. A piece of parchment (and, later, paper) with the lesson written on it was attached to the board and covered with a transparent sheet of horn to keep it clean.

The first "basic textbook"--`The New England Primer'--was America's own contribution to education. Used from 1690 until the beginning of the 19th century, its purpose was to teach both religion and reading. The child learning the letter a, for example, also learned that "In Adam's fall, We sinned all."

As in Europe, then, the schools in the colonies were strongly influenced by religion. This was particularly true of the schools in the New England area, which had been settled by Puritans and other English religious dissenters. Like the Protestants of the Reformation, who established vernacular elementary schools in Germany in the 16th century, the Puritans sought to make education universal. They took the first steps toward government-supported universal education in the colonies. In 1642 Puritan Massachusetts passed a law requiring that every child be taught to read. And in 1647 it passed the "Old Deluder Satan Act," so named because its purpose was to defeat Satan's attempts to keep men, through an inability to read, from the knowledge of the Scriptures. The law required every town of 50 or more families to establish an elementary school and every town of 100 or more families to maintain a grammar school as well.

Puritan or not, virtually all of the colonial schools had clear-cut moral purposes. Skills and knowledge were considered important to the degree that they served religious ends and, of course, "trained " the mind.

18th-Century United States

As the spirit of science, commercialism, secularism, and individualism quickened in the Western world, education in the colonies was called upon to satisfy the practical needs of seamen, merchants, artisans, and frontiersmen. The effect of these new developments on the curriculum in American schools was more immediate and widespread than its effect in European schools. Practical content was soon competing vigorously with religious concerns.

The academy that Benjamin Franklin helped found in 1751 was the first of a growing number of secondary schools that sprang up in competition with the Latin schools. Franklin 's academy continued to offer the humanist-religious curriculum, but it also brought education closer to the needs of everyday life by teaching such courses as history, geography, merchant accounts, geometry, algebra, surveying, modern languages, navigation, and astronomy. By the mid-19th century this new diversification in the curriculum characterized virtually all American secondary education.

After the Revolutionary War new textbooks--mostly American histories and geographies--began to appear. Often they were written with a strong nationalistic flavor. Also, beginning in 1783 `The New England Primer' began to share its supremacy with what was to become an even more popular schoolbook, Noah Webster's `American Spelling Book'. This work standardized American spelling and emancipated it from English spelling. It also exposed American schoolchildren to more than a century of grueling drill. The speller was used until the end of the 19th century, but the stress on spelling accuracy and the spelling-bee craze continued to grip the schools into the early years of the 20th century.

19th-Century Europe

In the 19th century the spirit of nationalism grew strong in Europe and, with it, the belief in the power of education to shape the future of nations as well as individuals. Other European countries followed Prussia's example and eventually established national school systems. France had one by the 1880s, and by the 1890s the primary schools in England were free and compulsory.

The attitude toward women, too, was slowly changing. By the last half of the 19th century both France and Germany had established secondary schools for women. Only the most liberal educators, however, entertained the notion of coeducation.

By and large, European elementary schools in the 19th century were much like those of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. They were attended by children of the lower classes until, at the latest, age 10 or 11, when schooling terminated for all but a few of the "brightest" among them. The usual subjects were reading, writing, religion, and, if the teacher had mastered it himself, arithmetic. The teacher was often poorly informed; frequently, he taught because he was unable to get any other kind of work. School might still be held in apprentice shops, industrial plants, living rooms, kitchens, or outdoor areas, though regular classrooms were becoming the rule. If the teacher could maintain order at all, it was by bullying, beating, and ridiculing the children. Perhaps the best description of the children who attended such schools is by the English novelist Charles Dickens:

Pale and haggard faced, lank and bony figures, children with the countenances of old men. . . . There was childhood with the light of its eyes quenched, its beauty gone, and its helplessness alone remaining.

It is no wonder then that Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi's (1746-1827) school at Yverdon, Switzerland, created international attention and attracted thousands of European and American visitors. What they saw was a school for children--for real children, not miniature adults. They saw physically active children--running, jumping, and playing. They saw small children learning the names of numbers by counting real objects and preparing to learn reading by playing with letter blocks. They saw older children engaged in object lessons--progressing in their study of geography from observing the area around the school, to measuring it, making their own relief maps of it, and finally seeing a professionally executed map of it.

This was the school and these were the methods developed by Pestalozzi in accordance with his belief that the goal of education should be the natural development of the individual child, and that educators should focus on the development of the child rather than on memorization of subject matter that he was unable to understand. Pestalozzi's school also mirrored the idea that learning begins with firsthand observation of an object and moves gradually toward the remote and abstract realm of words and ideas. The teacher's job was to guide--not distort--the natural growth of the child by selecting his experiences and then directing those experiences toward the realm of ideas.

The German educator Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel (1782-1852) is the father of the Kleinkinderbeschäftig- ungsanstalt (institution where small children are occupied). The name, too long even for the Germans, quickly shrank to Kindergarten (garden for children).

Froebel wanted his school to be a garden where children unfolded as naturally as flowers. Like Pestalozzi, with whom he had studied, he felt that natural development took place through self-activity, activity springing from and sustained by the interests of the child himself. The kindergarten provided the free environment in which such self-activity could take place.

It also provided the materials for self-activity. For example, blocks in different shapes and sizes led the child to observe, compare and contrast, measure, and count. Materials for handwork--such as drawing, coloring, modeling, and sewing--helped develop motor coordination and encourage self-expression. (See also Froebel ; Kindergarten and Nursery School .)

For another of Pestalozzi's admirers, the German philosopher and psychologist Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841), education was neither the training of faculties that exist ready-made in the mind nor a natural unfolding from within. Education was instruction--literally a building into the mind from the outside. The building blocks were the materials of instruction --the subject matter. The builder was the teacher. The job of the teacher was to form the child' s mind by building into it the knowledge of man's cultural heritage through the teaching of such subjects as literature, history, science, and mathematics. Since the individual mind was presumably formed by building into it the products of the collective mind, methods of instruction were concerned wholly with how this was to be done. Herbart's interest lay in determining how knowledge could be presented so that it would be understood and therefore retained. He insisted that education must be based on psychological knowledge of the child so that he could be instructed effectively.

The psychology on which Herbart based his teaching methods was later proved incorrect. His systematized lesson plans, however, guiding the teacher in what he considered the proper manner and sequence of presenting subject matter to pupils, were a real innovation in education. By denying that the mind consists of inborn faculties that can be exercised on any kind of material, Herbart drew the attention of educators to the subject matter itself, to the content of the material. He took the emphasis off memorizing--at least in theory--and put it on understanding. He also transformed the image of the teacher. No longer an ignorant bully beating knowledge into children, the teacher became a person trained in effective methods of imparting knowledge. He controlled the learning situation through psychological insight, not physical force. The teacher inspired the child's "interest" in the material because he knew how to present it.

Before arriving at his own educational theory, Herbart had visited--and been impressed by --Pestalozzi's school in Switzerland. The teaching methods Herbart evolved represented an attempt to create in the German schools the same joy of learning that animated Pestalozzi's school. That is why he insisted on the need to study the child to determine his interests.

Herbart's educational goal was different from Pestalozzi 's, however, and his teaching methods created a different kind of school. Herbart was working within the framework of a state-controlled school system. For him the goal of education was to create individuals who were part of the sociopolitical community. While Pestalozzi emphasized the individuality that makes men distinct from one another, Herbart emphasized their common cultural heritage. Herbart's school created an intellectual environment, conducive to the child's absorption of formulated, authoritative bodies of knowledge, while Pestalozzi's school created a physical environment, conducive to the child's physical activity and firsthand learning experiences. While "interest" resided in the physical activity that Pestalozzi's child engaged in and was to be encouraged for the sake of his natural development, "interest" for Herbart's child was stimulated by the teacher for the purpose of instruction. While Pestalozzi's teacher unobtrusively guided the natural development of the individual child's innate powers, Herbart's teacher built knowledge into the child's mind through a systematic method of instruction that was uniform for all pupils. Thus, the instruction in Europe and the United States that was influenced by Herbart's theories was teacher- and curriculum-centered; that influenced by Pestalozzi, child-centered.

The concern of some educators in the late 19th century for the welfare and development of the individual eventually began to encompass children previously considered ineducable. One of the first to become interested in educating the mentally retarded, who were then called "idiot children," was the Italian physician Maria Montessori (1870-1952). The techniques and materials she devised for educating mentally retarded children were so effective that many learned to read and write almost as well as normal children. While Italian educators wondered at the progress of her pupils, Montessori wondered at the lack of progress of the normal children who attended schools for the poor. She concluded that the educational techniques used in these schools stifled development, whereas those that she had developed encouraged it.

In the early 1900s Montessori was put in charge of the Case dei Bambini (Children's Houses), schools for 3- to 7-year-olds established in newly built tenement buildings in Rome. In these schools she emphasized freedom and individual development. Her idea of freedom, however, was a very special one. To be free, children must be as independent of other people as possible. So they learned to perform everyday, practical tasks, such as dressing themselves and keeping their schoolroom clean. They were also free to choose the materials they wanted to work with and the places where they wanted to work. To make them as independent of the teacher as possible, the children were given materials that allowed them to see and correct their own mistakes--such as variously shaped pegs to be fitted into matching holes.

Like Froebel, Montessori believed in the value of self-activity, sense training through the handling of physical objects, and the importance of the child 's growth as an individual. For Montessori, however, growth was primarily cognitive rather than emotional. In her schoolroom, self-activity manifested itself mostly in contemplative self-absorption. In Froebel's schoolroom, it manifested itself mostly in the robust physical and social activity of songs and games.

Because the development of cognition was a more specific goal for Montessori than for Froebel, many of the physical objects she designed for the children led directly to such cognitive ends as reading and writing. If a child wanted to learn to write, for example, he could begin by literally getting the feel of the letters--running his hand over letters made of sandpaper. In this way, 4- and 5-year-olds learned to write, read, and count. (See also Montessori .)

19th-Century United States

America came into its own educationally with the movement toward state-supported, secular free schools for all children, which began in the 1820s with the common (elementary) school. The movement gained impetus in 1837 when Massachusetts established a state board of education and appointed the lawyer and politician Horace Mann (1796-1859) as its secretary. One of Mann's many reforms was the improvement of the quality of teaching by the establishment of the first public normal (teacher-training) schools in the United States. State after state followed Massachusetts' example until by the end of the 19th century the common-school system was firmly established. It was the first rung of what was to develop into the American educational ladder.

After the common school had been accepted, people began to urge that higher education, too, be tax supported. As early as 1821 the Boston School Committee established the English Classical School (later the English High School), which was the first public secondary school in the United States. By the end of the century, such secondary schools had begun to outnumber the private academies.

The original purpose of the American high school was to allow all children to extend and enrich their common-school education. With the establishment of the land-grant colleges after 1862, the high school also became a preparation for college--the step by which students who had begun at the lowest rung of the educational ladder might reach the highest. In 1873, when the kindergarten became part of the St. Louis, Mo., school system, there was a hint that in time a lower rung might be added.

America's educational ladder was unique. Where public school systems existed in European countries such as France and Germany, they were dual systems. When a child of the lower and middle classes finished his elementary schooling, he could go on to a vocational or technical school. The upper-class child often did not attend the elementary school but was instead tutored until he was about 9 years old and could enter a secondary school, generally a Latin grammar school. The purpose of this school was to prepare him for the university, from which he might well emerge as one of the potential leaders of his country. Instead of two separate and distinct educational systems for separate and distinct classes, the United States provided one system open to everyone.

As in mid-19th-century Europe, women were slowly gaining educational ground in the United States. "Female academies" established by such pioneers as Emma Willard (1787-1870) and Catharine Beecher (1800-78) prepared the way for secondary education for women. In 1861 Vassar-- the first real college for women --was founded. Even earlier--in 1833--Oberlin College was founded as a coeducational college, and in 1837 four women began to study there.

In the mid-19th century there was yet another change in education. The secondary-school curriculum that had been slowly expanding since the founding of the academies in the mid-18th century virtually exploded in the mid-19th.

A new society, complicated by the latest discoveries in the physical and biological sciences and the rise of industrialism and capitalism, called for more and newer kinds of knowledge. By 1861 as many as 73 subjects or branches thereof were being offered by the Massachusetts secondary schools. People still believed that the mind could be "trained, " but they now thought that science could do a better job than could the classics. The result was a curriculum that was top-heavy with scientific instruction.

The mid-19th-century knowledge explosion also modestly affected some of the common schools, which expanded their curricula to include such courses as science and nature study. The content of instruction in the common school, beyond which few students went, consisted of the material in a relatively small number of books: assorted arithmetic, history, and geography texts, Webster's `American Spelling Book', and two new books that appeared in 1836--the `First ' and `Second' in the series of `McGuffey's Eclectic Readers'. Whereas `The New England Primer' admonished children against sin, the stories and poems in the readers pressed for the moral virtues. Countless children were required to memorize such admonitions as "Work while you work, play while you play. One thing each time, that is the way." (See also McGuffey .)

In the early days the common schools, like those in Europe, consisted of one room where one teacher taught pupils ranging in age from 6 to about 13--and sometimes older. The teacher instructed the children separately, not as a group. The good teacher had a strong right arm and an unshakable determination to cram information into his pupils.

Once the fight to provide free education for all children had been substantially won, educators turned their attention to the quality of that education. To find out more about learning and the learning process, American normal schools looked to Europe. In the 1860s they discovered--and for about 20 years were influenced by--Pestalozzi. The general effect on the common schools was to shift the emphasis from memorization of abstract facts to the firsthand observation of real objects.

Pestalozzi's diminishing influence roughly coincided with the rapid expansion of the cities. By the 1880s the United States was absorbing several million immigrants a year, a human flood that created new problems for the common school. The question confronting educators was how to impart the largest amount of information to the greatest number of children in the shortest possible time. The goal of educators and the means through which they attained it were reflected in the new schools they built and in the new teaching practices they adopted.

Expediency dictated, particularly in the cities, that the one-room common school be replaced by larger schools. To make it easier and faster for one teacher to instruct many students, there had to be as few differences between the children as possible. Since the most conspicuous difference was age, children were grouped on this basis, and each group had a separate room. To discourage physical activity that might disrupt discipline and interrupt the teaching process, to encourage close attention to and absorption of the teacher's words, and to increase eye contact, the seats were arranged in formal rows. For good measure, they frequently were bolted to the floor.

It is not surprising, at about this time, when the goal of education was to expedite the transfer of information to a large number of students, that the normal schools began to fall under the influence of Herbart. The essence of his influence probably lay not so much in his carefully evolved five-step lesson plan but in the basic idea of a lesson plan. Such a plan suggested the possibility of evolving a systematic method of instruction that was the same for all pupils. Perhaps Herbart 's emphasis on the importance of motivating pupils to learn--whether through presentation of the material or, failing that, through rewards and punishments--also influenced the new teaching methods of the 1880s and 1890s.

The new methods, combined with the physical organization of the school, represented the antithesis of Pestalozzi's belief that the child's innate powers should be allowed to unfold naturally. Rather, the child must be lopped off or stretched to fit the procrustean curriculum bed. Subjects were graded according to difficulty, assigned to certain years, and taught by a rigid daily timetable. The amount of information that the child had absorbed through drill and memorization was determined by how much could be extracted from him by examinations. Reward or punishment came in the form of grades.

At the end of the 19th century the methods of presenting information had thus been streamlined. The curriculum had been enlarged and brought closer to the concerns of everyday life. Book learning had been supplemented somewhat by direct observation. And psychological flogging in the form of grades had perhaps diminished the amount of physical flogging. In one respect, however, the schools of the late 19th century were no different from those, say, of the Middle Ages: they were still based on what adults thought children were or should be, not what they really were.

20th-Century Changes in Education

Concepts of teaching and learning-- and school practice--have changed more since 1900 than in all preceding human history. And they are still changing.

Thorndike, Edward Lee

1900-30. Before the 20th century the ideas of such men as Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, and, in the United States, Francis W. Parker (1837-1902) had caused little more than rumblings beneath the floor of the traditional schoolhouse. Because of John Dewey (1859-1952) they gathered force, and in the 1920s and 1930s new and old ideas collided right in the middle of the classroom.

Some of the schools where neat rows of subdued children had sat immobilized in their bolted-down seats--listening to a teacher armed with textbook, lesson plan, grade book, and disciplinary ruler-- became buzzing places where virtually everything moved, including the chairs. The children were occupied in groups or worked by themselves, depending on what they were doing. Above all, they were always doing: reading a favorite book, writing, painting, or learning botany by tending, observing, and discussing the plants they were growing. The teacher moved around the room, asking and answering questions, giving a child the spelling of a word he wanted to write or the pronunciation of a word he wanted to read, and in general acting as a helpful guide for the children's chosen activities. The chattering and noise and activity were signs that the children were excited about and absorbed by what they were doing. They were, in fact, learning by doing.

Dewey maintained that the child is not born with a ready-made faculty called thinking, which needs the exercise of repeated drill to make it as strong as the adult faculty. Nor, he said, is the mind a blank tablet on which knowledge is impressed. Mind--thinking or intelligence-- is, according to Dewey, a developing, growing thing. And the early stages of growth and of knowledge are different from the later stages.

The development of the mind begins with the child's perception of things and facts as they are related to himself, to his personal, immediate world. A dog is his dog or his neighbor's dog; it is something furry and warm, something to hug, feed, and play with. The child may recognize the fact that though his neighbor's dog looks different from his, they are both dogs. When he sees a wolf at the zoo, he may decide that his dog is a nicer and friendlier animal than the wolf. The child's zoological knowledge is thus organized around his own experiences with particular animals and his perceptions of similarities and differences between those experiences; it is psychologically organized knowledge.

The last step in the growth of intelligence is the ability to organize facts logically--that is, in terms of their relationship to one another. The formulated, logically organized knowledge of the zoologist is that both the wolf and the domesticated dogs belong to the family Canidae, order Carnivora; that the dogs belong to the genus Canis and species familiaris; and that one dog belongs to the sporting breed spaniel, the other to the working breed collie.

Presented to the child in this form, however, the study of zoology has no relation to the animals he plays with, feeds, and observes. His own experience outside of school does not bring the information to life, and the information does not enrich and extend his own experience. It represents another world entirely--a world of empty words. All he can do, therefore, is memorize what he reads and is told. He is not developing the power to think.

To stimulate the growth of intelligence rather than stifle it, as Dewey saw it, education must begin not at the end but at the beginning of the growth process; that is, with activity that engages the whole child--mentally, socially, physically, and emotionally. In the school, as in his spontaneous activities outside of school, it is the process of doing something that has meaning for the child--handling, making, growing, observing. The purpose of the school, however, is not to re-create an environment of relatively random activity but to create an environment where activities are carefully chosen to promote the development of intelligence. Carefully selected and guided, they become nets for gathering and retaining knowledge.

Instead of presenting children with an already packaged study of elementary science, Dewey might well have recommended that they study life in an aquarium. The child's natural curiosity should lead to such questions as "Why does the fish move his mouth like that? Is he always drinking?" His search for the answer will lead his intelligence in the same direction as that taken by the scientist--the direction of formulated conclusions based on observation of the phenomenon. He will be learning the method as well as the subject matter of science--learning to think as a scientist does. Moreover, the inquiry process need not be confined to one narrow area of knowledge but can be guided naturally by the teacher into investigations of fishing and then, conceivably (depending on the maturity of the young learner), of the role of the sea in the life of man. The barriers between " subjects" thus break down as the child's curiosity impels him to draw upon information from all areas of human knowledge. Books, films, recordings, and other such tools serve this end.

Learning the skills--reading, writing, spelling, and arithmetic--can be made meaningful to the child more easily if he is not forced through purposeless mechanical exercises, which, he is told, are important as a preparation for activities in later life. He should be led to discover that in order to do something he recognizes to be important right now, he needs certain skills. If he wants to write a letter, he must know how to spell; if he wants to make a belt, he must know how to measure the leather correctly.

Of course, Dewey was not suggesting that in order to learn an individual must recapitulate the whole history of the human race through personal inquiry. While the need for a background of direct experiences is great in elementary school, as children get older they should become increasingly able to carry out intellectual investigations without having to depend upon direct experiences. The principle of experiencing does apply, however, to the elementary phase of all subjects--even when the learner is a high-school or college student or an adult. The purpose is to encourage in the learner a habitual attitude of establishing connections between the everyday life of human beings and the materials of formal instruction in a way that has meaning and application.

The measuring and comparative grading of a student's assumed abilities, processes that reflect the educator's desire to assess the "results" of schooling, are incompatible with Dewey's thinking. The quantity of what is acquired does not in itself have anything to do with the development of mind. The "quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers," he wrote, "is the measure of educative growth." Because it is a process, learning is cumulative, and cannot be forced or rushed.

For Dewey, the educative growth of the individual assures the healthy growth of a society. A society grows only by changes brought about by free individuals with independent intelligence and resourcefulness. The beginning of a better society, then, lies in the creation of better schools. (See also Dewey, John .)

At about the same time that a few pioneering schools of the 1920s were trying to put Dewey's theories into practice, the " testing" movement, which started in about 1910, was working up steam. The child had first become the object of methodical scientific research in 1897, when experiments conducted by Joseph M. Rice suggested that drill in spelling did not produce effective results. By 1913 Edward L. Thorndike had concluded that learning was the establishment of connections between a stimulus and a response and that the theory of mental faculties was nonsense. Alfred Binet, in 1905, published the first scale for measuring intelligence.

During the 1920s, children began to be given IQ (intelligence quotient) and achievement tests on a wide scale and sometimes were carefully grouped by ability and intelligence. Many of the spelling and reading books they used, foreshadowing the 1931 Dick and Jane readers, were based on "controlled " vocabularies.

So while Dewey's "progressive" educators were trying to develop the child's ability to think, the conservatives, or essentialists, were testing his memory. While the progressives were concerned with the child's awareness of the scientific method, the conservatives were measuring his knowledge of various subjects. While the progressives were trying to create an individualized classroom where the child' s total personality could grow, the conservatives were hoping to improve instruction by grouping children according to mental ability. While the progressives saw in the child-centered classroom the hope for social change, the conservatives saw in uniform curriculum content the hope for social stability. Begun in the 1920s, the dispute as to which educational policies lead to the "good life" was still going on in the 1980s.

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

1930-60. Progressive theories seem to have been in the ascendancy during the 1930s, though only a handful of schools had genuinely liberal programs. One of the widespread--if modest--changes in the traditional schools was the attempt to relax the rigid categorization of subjects in the curriculum. Each body of knowledge was still organized according to its own internal logic, but it was taught in relation to other subjects. History, for example, was enriched by material from geography, sociology, and anthropology. This correlation of subjects led in the late 1930s to the development on the high-school level of what is sometimes called a core curriculum. Here the related subjects were merged into a whole, organized by a unifying theme--or core --that drew on the content of all of them. Some of the more liberal core curricula focused on such topics as housing or problems of democracy as part of an effort to draw the students' attention to the problems and possible ways of reforming a society threatened by economic depression and the international problems that led to World War II.

Conservative criticism of modern school practices died down somewhat in the 1930s but was revived in the early 1940s because of low scores made on military intelligence and ability tests. Especially bitter criticism was leveled in the early 1950s at "soft" or "cream puff" pedagogy; critics alleged that progressives had created a low quality of instruction, weakened discipline, and led to the decline of both moral values and traditional content in school programs.

After the shock Americans felt when the Soviets launched the first space satellite (Sputnik) in 1957, criticism of the schools swelled into loud demands for renewed emphasis on content mastery. The insistence on cognitive "performance" and "excellence" accomplished four things. It increased competitive academic pressures on students at all levels. It stimulated serious and sustained interest in preschool education, which manifested itself in various ways--from the revival of the Montessori method in the 1960s to the preschool television series Sesame Street in 1969. In addition, it created a new interest in testing, this time in such forms as national assessments of student performance, experiments with programmed materials, and attempts to gauge when children could begin to read. And it stimulated interest in the application of technology and instructional systems to education as a means of improving student instruction.

Perhaps the most conspicuous result of the emphasis on cognitive performance was the large number of curriculum reform studies undertaken not by professional educators only but also by specialists in such fields as mathematics, science, and linguistics. This trend had begun in the pre-Sputnik days but was greatly accelerated by the Soviets' successful spaceflight and American fears of losing technological preeminence. Curriculum changes led to the "new math" and the "new science" in the 1950s and early 1960s. Changes in English and social studies instruction followed in the middle and late 1960s.

From the 18th century onward, as knowledge of the world increased, new subjects had been added and old ones split up into branches. Later, new combinations of courses resulted from the attempt to put the scattered pieces of knowledge back together again. The curriculum change represented by, say, the new math, however, involved a major restructuring of subject content. The purpose was to make knowledge more rational and meaningful so that it could be understood instead of mechanically memorized. It also encouraged young learners to begin to think and inquire as scholars do. In other words, many of the new programs developed for use in the schools, particularly in the 1960s, stressed the inquiry approach as a means of mastering a body of knowledge and of creating a desire for more knowledge. To further vitalize instruction, the new programs often used films, programmed materials, and laboratory experiments.

Education - A Decade of American Education

Recent developments. Resistance to the 1954 United States Supreme Court decision terminating segregation placed the schools in the middle of a bitter and sometimes violent dispute over which children were going to attend what schools. By 1965, when a measure of genuine integration had become a reality in many school districts, the schools again found themselves in the eye of a stormy controversy. This time the question was not which children were going to what schools but what kind of education society should provide for the students. The goal of high academic performance, which had been revived by criticisms and reforms of the 1950s and early 1960s, began to be challenged by demands for more "humane," "relevant," and "pressure-free" schooling.

Many university and some high-school students from all ethnic groups and classes had been growing more and more frustrated--some of them desperately so--over what they felt was a cruel and senseless war in Vietnam and a cruel, discriminatory, competitive, loveless society at home. They demanded curriculum reform, improved teaching methods, and greater stress and action on such problems as overpopulation, pollution, international strife, deadly weaponry, and discrimination. Pressure for reform came not only from students but also from many educators. While students and educators alike spoke of the need for greater "relevance" in what was taught, opinions as to what was relevant varied greatly.

The blacks wanted new textbooks in which their people were recognized and fairly represented, and some of them wanted courses in black studies. They, and many white educators, also objected to culturally biased intelligence and aptitude tests and to academic college entrance standards and examinations. Such tests, they said, did not take into account the diverse backgrounds of students who belonged to ethnic minorities and whose culture was therefore different from that of the white middle-class student. Whites and blacks alike also wanted a curriculum that touched more closely on contemporary social problems and teaching methods that recognized their existence as individual human beings rather than as faceless robots competing for grades.

Alarmed by the helplessness and hopelessness of the urban ghetto schools, educators began to insist on curricula and teaching methods flexible enough to provide for differences in students' social and ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, for educational reformers the urban ghetto school became a symbol of a general failure of American education to accomplish the goal of individual development. Both the liberal educators--the "new humanists"--and the students seemed to mean by relevance very much what the progressives of the 1920s and 1930s meant when they said that education should contribute to the development of the student by leading him to establish living, human links between the subject matter and his personal and social experiences. Also reminiscent of those decades were the child-centered "open" schools that sprang up in the later 1960s as alternatives to and examples for the traditional schools. The clash between the academically and the humanistically oriented schools of thought, therefore, was in many ways one more encounter in the continuing battle between conservatives and liberals. (See also Psychology .)

Compared to pre-20th-century schools, all schools of the 1980s in the United States are liberal. Latin and Greek have given way to the modern, spoken languages. Literature and philosophy have lost ground to such "practical" studies as science and the social sciences and to skills such as driver training. Emphasis on intellectual brilliance has given way to social accomplishments that are more group-oriented. Teachers are less austere, better informed, and more considerate of the total growth and well-being of the young.

Compared, however, to Dewey's totally child-centered elementary school, his ideas about how knowledge should be taught on the upper levels, and the priority he gives to personal development over academic excellence, most American schools of the 1980s are conservative. There may be less emphasis on textbooks and more on instructional systems and educational media such as films, but the medium of instruction is still predominantly teaching by telling, rather than by stimulating independent inquiry. Subjects such as science that were originally excluded from the curriculum may have fought their way in, but once in they are often taught in a compartmentalized way. Furthermore, they have become as much a part of the authoritative knowledge that the student must master-- and as remote from his everyday life--as Latin in the 19th century was remote from the life of an American farm boy. Laboratories have been introduced into many schools, but they are often used to supplement the ready-made knowledge of textbooks, not as a means toward discovery of knowledge and mastery of the scientific method.

Early childhood education. In the early 1970s, neither nursery schools (for 2- to 4-year-olds) nor kindergartens (for 4- and 5-year-olds) had become a universal feature of public education in the United States. Educators, however--convinced that many of the child's basic potentialities are determined by his experiences even before he enters first grade--are urging that top priority be given to early childhood education, beginning no later than age 2 or 3.

Elementary schools. Four basic subject areas are included in virtually all elementary schools in the United States: language arts (reading, writing, spelling, and related language skills), mathematics, science, and social science (usually history, geography, and relevant material from the social and behavioral sciences). In the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, subject matter generally assumes a more distinct form and in some schools becomes quite sharply delineated.

Although some progressive "open " schools appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s, most elementary schools are still relatively traditional--particularly in the middle and upper years. Most of the time, the child is expected to remain seated and quiet, and he must adjust himself to a teacher's plans that sometimes are uniform for the entire class. The learner is not appraised on the basis of total personality growth but is graded on the basis of his mastery of content. The teacher remains the figure of authority who frequently teaches "subjects," rather than serving as an unobtrusive guide of human development.

Secondary schools. In most high schools the basic courses that are offered are English, science, mathematics, foreign languages, and history. Large, comprehensive high schools may offer more than 100 courses, including art, music, vocational, business, and technical subjects. The experiments with alternative methods of drawing together isolated subjects, which began in the 1950s and continued into the 1980s, have brought about striking changes in some high schools. The traditional academic and vocational programs offered by a plurality, if not a majority, of schools, however, have changed but little. There are still classes that meet at prescribed times, and set time intervals govern their length. Compartmentalized subjects remain the rule, and graduation requirements generally are based on a specified number of units of content.

Colleges and universities. Although it is true that since the middle 1960s the stringent admissions policies of some colleges and universities have been somewhat modified to allow for students who cannot qualify on a strictly academic basis, most maintain their traditional emphasis on "excellence." Despite numerous limited innovations, higher education in the 1980s is not radically different from what it was about 30 years before. There are refinements rather than fundamental changes on the typical campus. Pressures from students and the increasing open-mindedness of teachers at all levels from early childhood to the doctoral level suggest, however, the likelihood of massive change within the next decade or two.

Private schools. Most private schools fall into three broad categories: parochial schools operated by religious groups; private schools (such as Choate Rosemary Hall and the Francis W. Parker School) supported by patrons; and private colleges and universities.

A 1971 Supreme Court decision, which held unconstitutional direct state aid to nonpublic elementary and secondary schools, aggravated the problems of the public school system, which had to absorb millions of new students. However, the annual rate of Roman Catholic school shutdowns stabilized by the early 1980s. In 1984 Congress rejected a plan to give tuition tax credits to the parents of children in private schools.

Open school

Education and Architecture

School buildings themselves can reflect liberal or conservative views about what should go on in a classroom. The earliest schools built to accommodate large numbers of children had separate classrooms for graded groups. The rooms were laid out formally, with pupils' desks bolted to the floor in straight rows facing the teacher 's desk. Clearly, the school itself reflected a teacher- and subject-centered view of education.

Schools of the next generation, built after 1940, were lighter and airier and had more open space, and most had movable desks. They also often provided special rooms or areas for science, art, music, and physical education. There were still separate rooms for different grade levels, however, and the desks still were likely to be formally arranged in straight rows. That is, the schoolroom was still largely designed to implement the old school program, which involved grade levels, uniform time blocks, uniformity of instruction, and absorption of subject matter. Newer subjects, not newer teaching methods, accounted for most of what was new in school design.

The first school buildings constructed specifically to facilitate liberal teaching methods began to appear in the mid-1950s. Folding interior walls--or no walls at all--permitted the flexible use of space to encourage large-group, small-group, or individual instruction. Some provided carrels for individual study, areas designed for team teaching, centers for programmed instruction, and a language laboratory.

In the newest buildings--called open schools--the use of space is even more flexible. Since so much of the space is undifferentiated, areas within the buildings can be readily expanded, converted to accommodate program changes, and used for many kinds of functions. As a reflection of a conservative or liberal attitude toward education, the physical layout of a school can either facilitate or hinder conservative or liberal teaching practices. But it cannot determine what those practices will be. It may be difficult for a conservative teacher to operate in a physically open classroom or for a liberal teacher to operate in a formal classroom, but it is not impossible. What determines whether the classroom is liberal or conservative, in terms of the education the students receive, is the spirit and attitude of the teacher.

Educational Technology

Education and Technology

The educational media, or instructional systems and technology, field has expanded rapidly. It has spread far beyond the casual use of films and slides to encompass such innovations as programmed learning through teaching machines, computer-based or computer-assisted instruction, learning systems approaches, and education on closed-circuit television.

It is probable that one day the rapidly developing techniques of holography will make possible classroom replication of three-dimensional objects that appear to be completely solid and genuine. Other interesting innovations are Charles Colbert' s shoulder carrel and Thomas Vreeland's electronically programmed and equipped bus, which suggests that part of tomorrow's education may move from school to street.


Europe Today

The rapid changes that took place in United States schools during the first part of the 20th century can ultimately be traced back to theories born in 18th- and 19th-century Europe. Yet as late as the 1940s most European countries had not been fundamentally changed by the liberal ideas of such men as Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Froebel or by the liberal American ideal of a general elementary and secondary education for all. They retained, with relatively few changes, the school system they had established in the 19th century--a dual system based on the concept of an academic education for the elite and basic literacy plus some vocational training for the masses. The minority, destined to become potential leaders, attended the elite secondary schools: the English "public" schools (such as Harrow, Eton, and Rugby), the French lycées, or the German Gymnasien. The majority, destined to become followers, either went from elementary schooling to vocational training or dropped out of school to go to work.

After World War II rigid class stratification began to give way, and Europe moved toward a one-track system of education. This system was based on the recognition that all citizens are entitled to equal opportunities for schooling.

Changes in Great Britain illustrate the shift from class to mass education that has been taking place in Europe since the mid-1940s. The number of years of compulsory education was raised, and new secondary schools were established to meet a variety of student needs. These new public schools at first offered three different kinds of programs: the college preparatory program of the grammar schools, the general education provided by the "modern schools" for students who were not likely to go on to the university, and the specialized training given by secondary technical schools. By the late 1960s, steps were being taken to integrate these three programs--and the students enrolled in them--into one "comprehensive" all-purpose secondary school. By the 1970s the comprehensive school had begun to replace the three specialized schools. In all European countries the elite private secondary schools still exist-- as they do in the United States--but they are no longer the only means of entrance to the universities.

The distinguished universities of continental Europe still accept students on a purely academic basis, as do England's traditional universities--such as Oxford and Cambridge. But by 1971 England had made a university degree attainable without resident study on a conventional university campus. For the first time in history it was possible for some 40,000 students to enroll in degree-granting university programs (about five years in length) in which credit was earned not by attending classes but by learning through specially designed television programs.

When Europe began to switch from the two- to the one-track public school system, the liberal educational theories born in Europe at last began to be implemented there. Although most European public schools remain more conservative than United States schools, many of them have become at least as much concerned with the student's all-around growth as they are with the acquisition of subject matter. The schools have moved away from the traditional academic subject matter toward more general, practical, socially oriented curricula. To overcome rigid compartmentalization of subjects, the schools have experimented with programs of study, some of which have been similar to the American core program. Perhaps the most liberal practices in the 1960s and 1970s occurred in England's "open" primary schools, which in many ways closely follow the ideas of Dewey and his adherents.

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

The Soviet Union Today

In the 1920s and 1930s virtually the whole world was aware of the ideas of progressive educators. China and Turkey, for example, invited Dewey to help with their school reforms. For a brief period in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Soviet Union's government encouraged the use of liberal teaching methods. But this was while the government was still struggling to combat widespread illiteracy.

When the Soviets came to power in 1917, no more than 30 percent of the population could read. One of the first decrees signed by the Soviet leader Lenin established universal, coeducational, free education. Implementing such a decree was especially difficult, however. Among the problems the government had to face were the huge size of the country and the existence of at least 100 languages (some even without alphabets) spoken by the peoples of what are now republics of the Soviet Union. Again, in some sections, such as the Central Asian areas, schools had never existed. Therefore, there was no broad educational base of equipment and buildings.

In the face of such difficulties, the progress that was made before the 1980s is remarkable. Soviet preschools enroll about 14 million of the country 's children--more than twice the number served by day-care centers in the United States. Ten years of education are compulsory where available (five years of elementary and three of lower and two of higher secondary). Statistics from the Soviet Union suggest that approximately 97 percent of the youth will obtain some secondary education. Higher education, too, has expanded. More than 860 institutions exist, as compared with 105 in 1917. They enroll about 4 million students, including those doing work in correspondence schools and at night. They graduated 817,300 students in 1980. Specialized secondary schools, with programs comparable to those of junior colleges, enroll another 4.6 million students.

Not long after taking power, the Soviet Union's Communist rulers discovered that liberal curricula and teaching methods, designed to promote the growth of the individual and desirable change in society, were incompatible with the goal of Communist education. Countries such as the Soviet Union and China expect their schools to produce citizens loyal to the party and capable of contributing to the material growth of the state.

Beginning in about 1931, then, the Soviet government began to exercise rigid control over textbooks, curricula, and teaching methods. Above all, the schools were to stress obedience, industriousness, and loyalty, and they were to teach facts. Soon schools throughout the country were teaching exactly the same things in exactly the same way.

From the lower schools through the upper, emphasis is now placed on such practical studies as mathematics, science, and technology, and work experience frequently accompanies classroom studies. A Soviet approach that stresses the practical aspect of education is called polytechnical education. It has no exact parallel in the United States. When chemistry, for example, is "polytechnized," students study not only the subject itself, but they also study the roles and relationships of chemistry to the Soviet economy and to trends and research in the Soviet chemical industry.

Beyond the Borders of Western Europe

Many of the countries of Asia, the Middle East, and other non-European areas retain the dual pattern of education imported from Great Britain, France, or Germany about 50 years ago when these countries ruled or at least administered many areas of the world. In the developing countries, educational systems that were originally designed to train a small native bureaucracy no longer serve the purpose for which they were intended. As a result, one of the tasks that developing nations continue to face for the 1980s and 1990s is to create educational systems that more adequately serve their cultural, social, political, and economic needs (see sections on education in individual country articles).


A teacher is someone who communicates information or skill so that someone else may learn. Parents are the first teachers. Just by living with their child and sharing their everyday activities with him, they teach him their language, their values and mores, and their manners. Information and skills difficult to teach through family living are taught in a school by a person whose special occupation is teaching.

Before 1900 it was widely assumed that a man was qualified to teach if he could read and write--and well qualified if he knew arithmetic. With modest qualifications like these, it is no wonder that teachers had low salaries and little prestige. Literature and history frequently portray teachers as fools, sadists, and ignoramuses. In the 1700s, for example, William Cowper noted that conjugated verbs and nouns declined were "all the mental food purveyed/By public hackneys in the schooling trade." Washington Irving made Ichabod Crane a fool in `The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'; Mr. Brocklehurst was a sadistic schoolmaster in Charlotte Brontë's `Jane Eyre'; and Thomas Hughes described the savage temper of the master in `Tom Brown's School Days'. In the mid-19th century Thomas B. Macaulay, speaking in the British Parliament, derided teachers as "the refuse of all other callings, discarded footmen, ruined pedlars, men . . . who [do] not know whether the Earth is a sphere or a cube."

By the late 19th century, there were signs that the status of teachers was slowly improving. Great educators such as Pestalozzi and Herbart, distinguished leaders such as Mann and Henry Barnard, and innovative thinkers such as Dewey and Parker began to command a respect that in a few decades had to some degree permeated classrooms in the United States. Progress was more glacial than meteoric, however, until the last half of the century.

In the 20th century the status of teachers rose as the standards for their education rose. By 1950 the average teacher had an education that greatly exceeded that of the average citizen.

Oddly enough, during the 19th century and well into the first third of the 20th century, public disdain for teachers went right along with the idea that they must be models of moral integrity. In many small towns, there were often "conduct codes" that forbade the teacher those activities in which many parents and other citizens of the community engaged--such as card playing, moderate drinking, smoking, and divorce. It is a commentary on changing times that the conduct codes that formerly set teachers apart have disappeared almost completely.

The changing attitudes toward the role of women also had an effect on the teaching profession. Before 1830, nearly all teachers were men. A century later, there were many women in teaching, and the elementary school had become a woman's world. The original shift in the ratio between men and women occurred partly because educational leaders urged that, in the interest of simple justice, qualified women be employed. Another reason for the shift was the grouping of children by age in the graded schools that replaced the ungraded common school. In the ungraded school, where the students ranged from small children to adolescents, a female teacher was often faced with the problem of disciplining unruly boys who were bigger and stronger than she. In the new schools, which were graded by age, women could teach classes made up only of younger children. In later years, shifts in the male-female ratio occurred when women moved into schools to fill manpower shortages caused by war or periods of widespread male employment.

A Gallery of Interactive On-Line Geometry

The Education of Teachers

In the 1830s, when the states began to take responsibility for supporting the schools, they also began to realize that they must provide trained teachers. The first public normal school opened in 1839 in Massachusetts. It was more advanced than secondary school but not quite a college. Normal schools originally offered only one year of training. This consisted of a review of "common subjects" (arithmetic and grammar); "advanced subjects" (algebra, geometry, moral philosophy, and natural history); child development; and rudimentary teaching methods. Practice teaching took place in the model schools sometimes attached to the normal schools. (Normal, from the Latin norma, means "model.")

By the 1930s the old normal school was beginning to give way to training in four-year, degree-granting colleges. The expansion of knowledge--both in substantive fields and in educational methods--had made more extensive teacher training imperative. Furthermore, state certification requirements had increased to the point where teachers without a bachelor's degree found it hard to obtain licenses. After 1940 a master's degree was required of most secondary and many elementary-school teachers.

Modern teacher education programs at the undergraduate level usually require four years of study consisting of content courses such as English and history; methods courses; and practice teaching. Content courses prepare students for general teaching or for teaching in specialized academic fields or in specialized nonacademic fields such as art, physical education, educational media, music, or home economics.

Teaching methods are procedures used to help the learner. College methods courses acquaint the teacher with instructional theory and materials, the preparation of lesson plans, the use of educational media such as projectors and teaching machines, and similar "how-to-do-it" activities.

The elementary-school teacher education program usually includes a total of one year of methods courses, the secondary program less. Content courses in the secondary program generally are more numerous and more concentrated in academic fields such as language arts and biological sciences.

For high-school teachers, graduate schools usually offer courses in specialized academic fields; for elementary teachers, advanced courses in such specialties as reading, curriculum, and child development. At some universities a person with a bachelor's degree from a college of arts and sciences can earn a master of arts degree in teaching by taking methods courses and practice teaching.


State laws and regulations determine the qualifications for teaching. Licenses are usually issued by a subdivision of the state department of education.

Certification has done much to protect pupils from substandard teachers, but some critics feel that many such laws are arbitrary, that too often they license teachers merely because they have accumulated college credits. By the 1970s, attempts were underway to find additional means of determining who is best qualified to teach.

Conditions of Employment

In 1936 an educational historian compared the teacher to an "indentured servant." Since the depression years of the 1930s, however, working conditions of teachers have improved at least as much as those of other Americans.

Salaries. In 1938 the average lifetime income of a public school teacher was $29,700. By 1983 the average annual salary for classroom teachers in the United States was about $20,700.

Contracts, tenure, and leave. In the 1930s, many teachers lacked the security of tenure and, if fired, could not get another job. Today the beginning teacher usually signs a one-year contract or salary agreement and remains on a limited contract until going on tenure. Tenure, or a continuing contract, is usually attained in three to five years, depending on the policy of the local board of education and state laws.

Most school boards have leave policies, which provide for illness, maternity, and, with increasing frequency, either study or sabbatical leaves with full or partial salary payments. Both the study leave and the salary schedule, which usually provides pay increments for advanced degrees, serve as incentives to further the teacher's professional preparation.

The Range of Teaching Opportunities

As products of or students in United States schools, most people are familiar with the work of classroom teachers and teachers of music, art, and physical education. There are, however, many special teaching fields that are less well known:

Educational media

Instructional systems and technology

Special services. Among special teaching personnel are those who work in educational media (also called instructional systems and technology), library science, guidance, various forms of special education for the handicapped, school psychology, and evaluation of performance (or psychometry). Others work with culturally different and disadvantaged children. Bilingual education, or instruction in both a native language and in English, has been officially encouraged by the federal government since passage of legislation in 1965.

Paraprofessional posts. Teacher aids, or para-professionals, have helped out in schools at least since the early 19th century, but their participation on teaching teams and in new diversified staffing plans in open schools is recent. Teacher aids fall into four groups: (1) unskilled aids, who do such things as dress younger children and clean up after classes; (2) clerical aids, who type and duplicate materials; (3) subprofessional aids, who read to the children and supervise rest periods, and (4) co-professional aids, or junior teachers, who grade themes, supervise tests, and help on the playground.

In the early 1980s questions of wages, hours, duties, necessary training, and licensing had not been entirely clarified. Despite the uncertainties, the paraprofessional had established his worth and seemed likely to have a permanent place in the classroom.

College and university instruction. As a rule, a doctoral degree is a prerequisite for a permanent university appointment. While pursuing the degree, the student often serves a form of subsidized internship or apprenticeship as a graduate assistant, research assistant, or teaching associate in a chosen field of study. Entry rank is normally as an instructor, which is sometimes possible before the final granting of a doctorate. The next ranks are then progressively assistant professor, associate professor, and finally full professor. Some universities have distinguished professor chairs, usually held by someone eminent in a special field. These chairs are often endowed by wealthy philanthropists or alumni.

The conventional activities of the teacher in higher education are instruction, research and publication, and campus service activities such as membership on faculty committees. Advancement in some institutions is heavily dependent on the publishing of works in the field. The granting of tenure was once associated with promotion to associate professor, but this practice is no longer as prevalent as before.

Administration, supervision, and business management. University graduate study, teaching experience, and suitable personal characteristics are among the usual prerequisites for administrative or supervisory positions. In many school systems the chief administrator is the superintendent of schools. This office handles such matters as budgeting, hiring, purchasing supplies, planning and building new schools, developing the curriculum, and serving as liaison between local and state or federal agencies. The superintendent's staff may range from two or three people in rural areas to many hundreds in large districts such as those in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Principals are the largest group of administrators in most school districts and perform a wide variety of tasks related to their faculties and the operation of their buildings.

Universities and colleges are usually headed by a president. The president is expected to be both an academic and a financial manager, though academic responsibilities may be delegated to an assistant sometimes called a provost. The provost may in turn supervise academic deans. Smaller institutions sometimes have a single dean with complete academic responsibility; large universities may have a dean for each college and such officers as dean of students, dean of faculties, and so on.

Unusual opportunities. Particularly since the late 1940s new opportunities have opened for teachers. Among them are industry-related positions, a variety of overseas assignments, and ACTION, an agency formed in 1971 by merging the former Peace Corps, Teacher Corps, VISTA, and several smaller government volunteer-service groups.

Positions in industry range from teaching in nursery schools operated by corporations to providing on-the-job technical or vocational education for adults. Overseas assignments include teaching in schools for the children of members of the United States armed forces, of employees of corporations with overseas operations, and of United States citizens performing nonmilitary governmental functions. ACTION, which functions at home as well as abroad, is not limited to teachers, but teachers are needed not only as instructors but also to serve in early-childhood education programs, to tutor, and to direct recreational activities. (See also ACTION .)

The American Federation of Teachers Web Site

National Education Association

American Federation of Teachers

Teachers' Associations

Teachers' associations range from local and county groups through state, national, and international organizations. The largest of the professional organizations in the United States is the National Education Association, which was formed in 1870 in a merger of three earlier organizations. Such groups have a variety of purposes: to improve teaching, to define and protect teacher rights, to disseminate professional information and news, and to influence educational legislation. Many groups also publish educational journals, newsletters, and books.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), organized in 1916 and now part of the AFL-CIO, is representative of the vocational associations of teachers. The AFT has been vigorous in its opposition to child labor and to what it considered undemocratic controls of education. It has also sought to improve salaries, tenure laws, and working conditions. Individual chapters are often involved in teacher strikes in order to achieve their goals.