Chapter 6: The Early History of Education in America Key Terms



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Chapter 6: The Early History of Education in America
Key Terms:
1. apprentice: someone who learns a skilled trade by watching and helping someone in that trade in early America

2. dame schools: schools run by women in their own homes, and parents paid a fee for their children to attend


3. hornbook: a flat wooden board with a handle. A sheet of paper—usually containing the alphabet, a prayer or two, and Roman numerals—was pasted on the board. A thin, flat piece of clear animal horn was attached to cover and protect the paper. Used during the Colonial Period.
4. common schools: public schools available to children from all levels of society
5. normal schools: schools that prepared men and women with the necessary skills to become teachers
6. McGuffey readers: the first widely used textbooks published during the American Common School Period that included moral lessons along with science, grammar, and other subjects
7. Progressives: members of a reform movement that began in the late 1800s who believed that education should be more individualized and teach students the skills that would improve the ills of society
8. Montessori method: the teaching principles developed by Maria Montessori, an Italian doctor, emphasizing self-directed learning through sensory experiences
9. career and technical education: courses of study that prepare students for careers related to a specific trade or occupation
10. disposable income: income beyond that needed for basic necessities, allowing people to buy or do things that they want
11. quotas: immigration laws set limits for people coming to the United States from other countries


The American Colonial Period (1600-1776)
12. Main points about education during the American Colonial Period: Europeans came to a new land seeking economic opportunity, religious freedom, and a better society. Options for education differed by location. Most education took place in the home. Schools that did exist were primarily for elementary grades. A few

universities and colleges were founded during this period. Most older children worked on family farms or businesses. Some learned skills through apprenticeships.

Most colonists in the New England colonies were puritans and believed in the importance of religious education. In the middle colonies, cultural groups developed their own schools. The Quaker schools were open to all, regardless of religion or race. The southern colonies had more rigid social and economic class divisions. Dame schools existed, where students were taught by women in their own homes.

13. The role of teachers was: to teach, be role models, and act as examples of moral behavior


14. The school curriculum focused on: basic reading, writing, simple math, and religion. Some training was available for trades. Sons of the wealthy often learned Latin, Greek, and more advanced math.

Those in the South also studied astronomy for navigation and plantation management skills. Girls learned sewing and other home management skills. Girls from wealthy households studied literature and learned poetry. Paper was scarce. Hornbooks were used.


The American Early National Period (1776-1840)
15. Main points about education during the American Early National Period: It began with the American Revolution. America was still primarily a rural nation. Change occurred more quickly in cities. Schools were seen as a vehicle for making a better society. Ideas and traditions of Europe had less of an influence. Religion played less of a role in education. Teaching skills were focused on teaching skills to help students enter fields such as agriculture, business, and shipping.

16. The role Benjamin Franklin played: He believed that understanding science helped to understand people and societies. He began the first public library. He worked to expand educational opportunities to anyone who could pay the tuition and attend, regardless of their religious beliefs. He influenced schools to teach good citizenship and a wide variety of subjects.


17. The role Thomas Jefferson played: He believed that education was the key to making the newly formed democracy a success. If common people were well educated, they could take part in democratic government, and it would thrive. He introduced legislation to divide counties into smaller districts that were responsible for a public system of education. He wanted to make sure that elementary schools were available without cost. He also established the University of Virginia.
18. The role of teachers was: to be positive models of good citizenship for their students. They were expected to be involved, making the community a better place through both church participation and involvement in community issues.
19. The school curriculum focused on: teaching the basics of reading, writing, and math, along with Christian principles and citizenship. Students learned Greek, Roman, and English history and now American history. Wealthy boys went on to study Greek, Latin, and English grammar plus advanced math, geography, literature, and science. If girls received additional education, it was often through a tutor at home or in schools specifically for girls. Education was mainly limited to those of European ancestry.
The American Common School Period (1840-1880)
20. Main points about education during the American Common School Period: Labor-saving devices gave people more time for other interests and pursuits. Americans realized the injustice of slavery and worked to end it. The freeing of slaves altered American life. By the end of the period, free public education for many was more widely available.
21. The role Horace Mann played: He was the first secretary for the State Board of Education in Massachusetts. He worked to establish free, public education for every boy and girl in Massachusetts.

The first public state-supported schools were established, giving the same education to people from different levels of society. He tried to improve and standardize schools. He established teachertraining schools. He advocated the establishment of free libraries. He increased state funding for public schools by using state taxes to pay for education.


22. African American education during this period: often done in secret because it was feared that education would lead to rebellion in the South. Former slaves in the North faced social and economic obstacles. Quaker schools allowed African American students to attend. Educated African Americans set up schools. The first African American colleges were founded. Most schools remained strictly segregated.
23. The role of teachers was: to usually teach all grades
24. The school curriculum focused on: how subjects were taught rather than which subjects were taught. Kindergartens were established in public schools. McGuffey readers were used and the Morrill Act of 1852 was passed.
A. kindergarten: Friedrich Froebel developed the idea for kindergarten. He believed that young children learned best through play. The first kindergarten classes were intended to help poor children succeed in school. Today, educational programs for young children are still based on play and social interaction.
B. McGuffey Readers: Textbooks became more widely available. McGuffey readers, which taught moral lessons along with reading, spelling, and other subjects were used in so many schools that they contributed to the standardization of American education.


  1. The Morrill Act: Also known as the Land-Grant College Act gave federal land to establish colleges in every state. These colleges provided practical education in agriculture, home economics, and other useful professions to people from all social classes. These colleges made higher education available to Americans nationwide.


The American Progressive Period (1880-1921)


  1. Main points about education during the American Progressive Period:

Women were gaining more rights. European immigrants poured into the cities.

The Industrial Revolution changed the nature of both work and society. It was a time of business expansion and reform. Members of this movement called themselves Progressives. They wanted to make America a better and safer place to live, and education was part of that. Many children worked in the cities, limiting their educational opportunities. Schools were overcrowded. Progressives fought for reducing the hours children could work in factories. By 1920, all states had laws requiring children to attend elementary school.



26. Schools were segregated, which means: African American children attended separate public schools that received less funding. Educational materials were scarce and inferior, often the cast-offs from the “white” schools. African American teachers could only teach in African American schools.
27. The role of teachers was: considered to be professional. Teacher preparation programs in colleges replaced normal schools. There was more emphasis on educational theories. Many teachers were unhappy with the emphasis on standardization. They wanted more freedom in the classroom. The first teachers’ labor union was formed. The union fought to improve the pay, status, and working conditions of teachers. Many women became teachers and a few rose to positions as school principals. Women achieved the right to vote.
28. The school curriculum focused on: Students more as individuals. Students were encouraged to think critically and independently, rather than simply memorize information and accept facts. Progressives believed that citizens trained to think and question would work to clean up corrupt city governments and improve working and living conditions. Thousands of public high schools were opened.
29. The role John Dewey played: John Dewey believed that classrooms were too rigid and inflexible. He believed that schools should place a greater emphasis on the development of problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. He promoted the link between learning and experience. He believed social interaction aided learning. Educators, influenced by his work, began focusing on the role of the teacher as guiding learning.
30. The role Maria Montessori played: Maria Montessori tried to find ways to help children who had difficulty learning. She believed that young children are capable of great discovery and motivated to explore the world. She believed that sensory experiences should come before learning to read and write. Her method considers all of a child’s needs, not just intellectual needs. The classroom provides stimulating environments. Children direct their own learning with teachers as their partners.
31. Career and technical education was: established to prepare students for the many career opportunities in specific trades and occupations where skilled workers were needed. It was established by the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917.

The 1920s and the Great Depression Era (1921-1940)
32. Main points about education during the 1920’s and the Great Depression era: The influence of the Progressive movement in education continued. Economic prosperity continued until the Great Depression.
33. The economy impacted the schools because: Schools expanded during the good economic times of the 1920s. During the Great Depression, schools faced a shortage of cash, since many people were unable to pay their taxes. Some schools closed. Teacher pay was cut or eliminated. Course offerings were cut back to basic subjects. Many children went to work. The federal government provided funds to hire teachers and purchase supplies. Schools offered free hot lunches for children. As a part of the program to employ others, better schools were built. Schools were working to recover.
34. “Dick & Jane” readers were significant because: the books taught basic reading skills with simple stories about a family. Their widespread use helped standardize education.


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