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Historical and Political

Factors that have Influenced

Education in the US
Caleb Ricks
ITL 602
Public Education Before 1800s
● “Before 1820… people had not developed an educational

consciousness for a variety of reasons” (Kaplan & Owings,

2015) Education

○ No economic demand for education existed because

farming did not require formal education (Kaplan & Government

Owings, 2015)

○ After the Revolutionary War, need to strengthen new

government outweighed need to provide public education

(Kaplan & Owings, 2015)

Crime, Poverty, Hate,

Public Schools in Early 1800s

Revolution, Immorality

● “The founding of public schools from the 1820s to the 1840s

had as a goal the uniting of Americans by instilling in students

common moral and political values” (Spring, 2018)

Moral Education
○ A moral nation would be free of crime, poverty, political

revolution, and immoral behavior

○ Educated populace would have enlightened and educated

views of government so that the American people could

be self-governing (Kaplan & Owings, 2015)

Public Education in the late 1800s to mid 1900s
● “During this era, school was intended to prepare youngsters for productive work outside the

household” (Kaplan & Owings, 2015)

○ literacy and punctuality

○ ability to follow rules and procedures Model Citizen

○ cooperation with others

● Preparing all for workforce and “submission to industrial elites” (Kaplan & Owings, 2015)

● Politics and education intertwine: “Growing the economy and preparing students for work is central

to political policies affecting schools” (Spring, 2018)

1900s Move to Child-Centered Education
● During this era, education became focused on developing healthy,

well-rounded individuals and focused on social, academic, and emotional

education (Spring, 2018)

○ 1920s-1940s: “High schools control youth problem youth ‘out of’ labor

markets, life-adjustment education” (Spring, 2018)

○ 1950s-1980s: “Teaching of multiculturalism and racial harmony”school

sports, school clubs, school spirit, vocational education (Spring, 2018)

○ 1980s-2000s: “Community service, preparation for global economy, Source:
control of learning through testing” (Spring, 2018)
● Believed that education could provide equal opportunity

Thomas Jefferson (Spring, 2018)

● “All citizens were to be given an equal chance to develop their

abilities and to advance in the political hierarchy” (Spring,


● Wanted to find and create best politicians through school

system and saw “schooling [as] the best means of identifying

democratic leadership” (Spring, 2018)

● “For Jefferson the most important political function of schools

was teaching reading” so that citizens could make informed

political decisions (Spring, 2018)
● Saw education as means for political control

Johann Fichte ● “Wanted schools to prepare students for conformity to

government regulations by teaching obedience to school

rules” (Spring, 2018)

● Wanted to teach patriotic songs, national history, and

national literature in the classroom to ensure students’

dedication to the government (Spring, 2018)

● Viewed schools as communities where individuals learn

to adjust to the needs of the community

● “The real work of the school, Fichte said, is shaping this

Source: social adjustment” (Spring, 2018)
● Believed education should be universal and free

Horace Mann ● “To Mann, education and freedom were inextricably linked” (Kaplan

& Owings, 2015)

○ Education teaches self-discipline necessary for a successful

democracy (Spring, 2018)
○ Wise commoners = wise leaders

● Teach students the “importance of using the vote, as opposed to

revolution and violence, to bring about political change” (Spring, 2018)

● “Shared political beliefs... would ensure the survival of the U.S.

government” (Kaplan & Owings, 2015)

○ Same political views = no political strife
Kaplan, Leslie S. & Owings, William A. (2015). Educational foundations (2nd ed.).

Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

Spring, Joel (2018). American education (18th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.