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Historical Foundations of Curriculum

The Timeline
1642-1776 (The Colonial Period)
1776-1850 (The National Period)
1820-1900 (The Rise of Universal Education)
1893-1918 (The Transitional Period)
1918-1949 (The Birth of the Field of Curriculum)
The Colonial Period (1642-1776)
-Massachusetts; ruled by the Puritans, theological principles
-Primary purpose: teach children to read Scriptures and notices of civil affairs
-Important subjects: reading, writing and spelling--understanding the catechism and
common law
-Reading and related language skills were basic to American education and elementary
school curriculum
Three Colonial Regions
-Colonial Massachusetts two sources
1. 1642 legislation required parents and guardians to ensure that children could read and
understand the principles of religion and the laws of the Commonwealth
2. Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647, required every town of 50 or more families to
appoint a reading and writing teacher.
The curriculum in colonial schools consisted of reading, writing, and some arithmetic
along with the rudiments of religious faith and and lessons designed to develop manners
and morals.
It was a traditional curriculum: stressing basic skills, timeless and absolute values, social
and religious conformity, faith in authority, knowledge for the sake knowledge, rote
learning and memorization.
The belief: children were born in sin, play with idleness, and childrens talk was
gibberish--strict discipline.
Colonial Schools
-Town schools: New England colonies; a locally controlled public elementary school
-Parochial and Private Schools: predominated in the middle colonies; Missionary
societies and various religious and ethnic groups established elementary schools-- three
Rs: reading, writing, arithmetic, the primer and the Bible
-Latin Grammar Schools: secondary level leading to college, attended by middle-class
boys who wanted to be merchant, business owners, professions like medicine, law,
teaching and ministry
-Academies: Est. 1751, second American institution to provide education. A practical
curriculum for those not going to college. No Latin, only English grammar, classics,

composition, rhetoric, and public speaking. Manual skills: carpentry, engraving, printing,
painting, cabinet making, farming, bookkeeping.
-Colleges: Harvard and Yale. Puritan view that ministers needed to be soundly educated
in the classics and scriptures. Competency in Latin and Greek and the classics.
Curriculum courses: Latin, grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, astronomy, metaphysics,
and natural sciences. For the ministry, curriculum courses were Greek, Hebrew, and
ancient History.
-Old Textbooks, and Old Readers: the hornbook, primer, Westminster Catechism, Old
Testament, and Bible. Drill and rote learning:
A- In Adams Fall
We sinned all
B-Thy Life to amend
This Book attend
C-The Cat doth play
And after slay...
Z-Zacheus he
Did climb the tree
His Lord to see.
The National Period (1776-1850)
-Believed that if a nation were to be free, it has to be educated
-Life, liberty and equality were emphasized in this eras great documents
1. The Declaration of Independence
2. The Bill of Rights
3. The 1785 Northwest Ordinances
Rush: Science, Progress and Free Education
Dr. Benjamin Rush represented this new era and emphasized on the classics prejudiced
the masses against institutions of learning.
To spend four or five years in learning two dead languages, is to turn our backs upon
gold mine, in order to amuse ourselves catching butterflies. If the time spent on Latin and
Greek was devoted to science, the human condition would be much improved. -Dr. Rush
Outlined plan for Pennsylvania:
-free elementary schools in every township
-free academy at the country level
-free colleges and universities at the state level for societys future leaders
Tax dollars pay for the expenses
Elementary level: reading, writing, and arithmetic
Secondary and College levels: English, German, the arts, sciences
All levels: good manners and moral principles

Jefferson: Education for Citizenship

-Thomas Jefferson had faith in agrarian society and distrusted the urban proletariat (the
class of industrial workers, lowest social or economic class)
For him, formal education should not be restricted to particular religious or upper-class
groups. Public taxes should finance schools.
His plan divided Virginias countries into wards, each of which would have a free
elementary school for the teaching of reading, writing, arithmetic, and history.
-20 secondary level grammar schools: English, Latin, Greek, geography, higher Maths,
poor but gifted students received scholarships
Webster: Schoolmaster and Cultural Nationalist
-Noah Webster urged Americans to unshackle [their] minds and act like independent
beings. You have been children long enough, subject to control and subservient to the
interests of a haughty parent... You have an empire to raise...and a national character to
establish and extend by your wisdom and judgment.
Distinctive national language and literature conveyed a sense of national identity.
-Books shaped the curriculum of US schools, Webster spent much of his life writing
spelling and reading books.
-Grammatical Institute of the English Language published in 1783
-The American Spelling Book; 15 million copies in 1837
McGuffey: The Readers and American Virtues
-William Holmes McGuffey taught most of his life in Ohio Colleges, also entered the
debate on US cultural nationalism.
-His five Readers were the most popular textbooks in the United States during his era.
120 million copies sold
-McGuffeys Readers extolled patriotism, heroism, and hard work, diligence, and
virtuous living. The tone was moralistic, religious, capitalistic, and nationalistic.
Nineteenth Century European Educators
-European thought greatly influenced US education.
-At the college level, German educators influenced the field of natural science,
psychology, and sociology; research-oriented universities were based on the German
-At K-12 level, progressive ideas from German and Swiss thinkers led curricular and
instructional methods that were psychologically oriented and considered students need
and interests.
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi: General and Special Methods
-Pestalozzi laid the basis for the modern elementary school and helped to reform

elementary-school practice.
-Education should be based on the childs natural development
-Children learn through the senses
-Deplored rote learning and advocated linking curriculum to childrens home experiences
General to Special Method
General: provided children with emotional security and affection
Special: focuses on childrens auditory and visual senses
The Object Lesson
-Children study common objects and determine an objects form, draw the object and
name it.
-From these lessons, came more formal instruction in the three Rs.
Friedrich Froebel: The Kindergarten Movement
-A German educator, developed the idea of kindergarten or childrens garden.
-Focused on the 3- and 4-year-old children; their schooling should be organized around
play and individual interests and activities.
-Child-centered curriculum based on love, trust, and freedom.
-Songs, stories, colorful materials and games were part of the formal curriculum.
The Froebel Gifts
-The child could manipulate objects (spheres, cubes, and circle), shape, and construct
materials (clay, sand, cardboard) and engage in playful activities (build castles and
mountains, run, and otherwise exercise).
Johann Herbart: Moral and Intellectual Development
-German philosopher who contributed to moral development in education and for his
creation of a methodology of instruction designed to establish a highly structured mode of
-For him, the chief aim of education was moral development, which he considered to be
basic and necessary to all other educational goals or purposes.
The Five Major Kinds of Ideas as the Foundation of Moral Character
1. The idea of inner freedom; action based on ones personal conviction
2. The idea of perfection; harmony and integration of behavior
3. The idea of benevolence; concerned with social welfare of others
4. The idea of justice; reconcile his individual behavior with that of the social group
5. The idea of retribution; reward or punishment accrues to certain kinds of behavior
Herbert Spencer: Utilitarian and Scientific Education
-English social scientist who based his ideas of education on Charles Darwins theory of
biological evolutions survival of the fittest.
-Simple societies evolve to more complex social systems characterized by an increased
variety of specialized professionals and occupations.
-Only intelligent and productive populations adapt to environmental changes.

-Less intelligent, weak, or lazy people slowly disappear.

-The curriculum aimed at advancing human survival and progress: knowledge and
Principles of Secondary Education (1918)
1. Sustaining life
2. Earning a living
3. Rearing children properly
4. Maintaining effective citizenship
5. Enjoying leisure time
-This document proved to be a turning point by which progressive thought (focus on the
whole child) trumped perennialist philosophy (focus on the subject matter) in education.
The Rise of Universal Education: 1820-1900
-equality and rugger individualism were important concepts, expressed in the Declaration
of Independence and reaffirmed by the Westerners who believed all people of all classes
were important
Monitorial Schools
-European invention based on Joseph Lancasters model of education
-Bright student monitors served as instructors. The teacher taught the lesson to the
monitors (high-achieving students), who presented the material to their classmates.
-Instruction was highly structured and based on rote learning and drilling the three Rs.
-Very economical, kept the students busy while the teacher was occupied by few students
-Students were kept actively involved in practice and drill activities and moved at their
own pace.
-Teachers were freed from some of their instructional chores. The monitorial system was
considered efficient.
Common Schools
-Est. 1826 in Massachusetts, Horace Mann
-Devoted to elementary education, with emphasis on the three Rs and rooted in
progressive thought
-To get the support of the business community, Mann argued that education has a market
Stewardship Theory (aimed at the upper class)
-public good would be enhanced by public education
Universal education would create a stable society in which people would obey the laws
and increase the nations political and economic well-being.
Elementary Schools
-There were no consensus regarding the appropriate elementary school curriculum.
-The trend was to add courses to the essential subjects of reading, spelling, grammar and
arithmetic. Religious doctrine changed to manners and moral instruction by 1825.

Secondary Schools
-The common school created the basis for tax-supported and locally controlled
elementary school education.
By 1900, children ages 6 to 13 were enrolled in public elementary school.
-In 1800, the academy began to replace the Latin grammar school; by 1850, it dominated
the school landscape.
-Academy offered a wide range of curricula; designed to provide a practical program for
terminal students as well as a college-preparatory course of study.
-Academy taught useful things and subjects of modern nature
-By 1828, academy taught 50 different subjects: Latin, Greek, English grammar,
geography, arithmetic, algebra, composition and declamation, natural philosophy,
rhetoric, philosophy, US History, French, chemistry, logic, and astronomy.
-By 1837, the Board of Regents reported 72 different subjects.
The Transitional Period: 1893-1918
-More and more subjects were added to the curriculum. As a result, there was a growing
need to bring some order and unity to curriculum.
Reaffirming the Traditional Curriculum: Three Committees
National Education Association (NEA): Committees to determine schools curricula
1. The Committee of Fifteen on Elementary Education
-Stressed the three Rs
2. The Committee of Ten on Secondary School Studies
-Identified nine academic subjects as central to the high school curriculum
3. The Committee on College Entrance Requirements
-Recommended strengthening the college-preparatory aspect of the high school
curriculum and number of credits required in different subjects for college admission
-Their reports standardized the curriculum for much of the 20th century.
Harris and Eliot: Two Conservative Reformers
If the rising generation does not grow up with democratic principles, the fault will lie in
the system of popular education. Lift all classes of people into preparation in civilized life
and instill social order
Vocational Education
NEAs Committee on the Place of Industries in Public Education advocated maunal
activities at the elementary level and testing of childrens aptitudes as a basis for
subsequent choice of specific pursuits either in vocations or in higher schools and
manual training for some high school students.

Pressure for a Modern Curriculum

Abraham Flexner: A Modern Curriculum
-Eliot, a former advocate of Latin and Flexner, a fromer teacher of classics, contended
that Latin had no purpose in the curriculum and that the classics were out of step with
scientific developments.
A Modern School by Flexner proposed a modern curriculum consisting of four basic
1. Science (the curriculums major emphasis)
2. Industry (occupations and trades of the industrial world)
3. Civics (history, economics, and government)
4. Aesthetics (literature, languages, art and music)
Modern languages replace Latin and Greek.
Emphasis is on scientific inquiry.
Dewey: Pragmatic and Scientific Principles of Education
-Dewey published Democracy and Education and proposed that subjects cannot be
placed in a value hierarchy; study of any subject can promote a childs development.
-Traditional subjects as Greek and Latin were no more than music and art.
-Science as the priority, is epitomizing rational inquiry.
-Science was another name for knowledge, represented the perfect outcome of learning.
Charles Judd: Systematic Studies and Social Sciences
-Judd was a colleague of Dewey.
-With Dewey and others, he constructed a science of education based on finding facts and
constructing generalizations and then applying them in decision-making and problemsolving areas. He referred this as scientism in education.
-As an evolutionist, he believed the laws of nature should be used to educate the young.
-Reading, writing, and spelling were used by successful adults
-science and math problems were applicable to everyday life
The Birth of the Field of Curriculum: 1918-1949
In 1990, scientific methods of research, psychology, the child-study movement, industrial
efficiency, and the progressive movement in society all influence education.
Curriculum is now viewed as a science, with principles and methodology, not simply as
content or subject matter.
Bobbitt and Charters: Behaviorism and Scientific Principles
1. Developed principles for curriculum making, involving aims, objectives, needs, and
learning experiences (activities)
2. Highlighted the use of behavioral objectives
3. Introduced the ideas that objectives are derived from the study of needs (needs

4. Emphasized that curriculum making cuts across subject matter and that a curriculum
specialist need to be a specialist in any subject but should be professional in method or
Kilpatrick: The Progressive Influence
-Emphasized the learner rather than subject matter and social activities rather than
cognitive ones.
-Curriculum circled on classroom and school social activities, group enterprises, and
group projects
-The Project Method (later called purposeful activity) was introduced
Purposing, planning, executing, judging
-Subjects of Study (field trips, community activities)
Observation, play, stories, and hard work
Rugg and Caswell: The Development Period
-Integrated history, geography, civics and economics collectively as social studies
-Coordinated instructional activities with subject matter and students needs and interests
-Course of study as guides teachers use in planning their daily lessons, not as plans to
follow in details
-They saw curriculum as a process involving scientific steps of development,
organization, instruction, and evaluation
-Curriculum must address students needs and interests, social functions and organized
-Scope represented broad themes
-Sequence depended on childrens interests and experiences
-Subject Matter should match the social functions and the learners interests; knowledge
gained should be measured