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CURRICULUM HISTORIANS. Karen Hicks EDUC 615 March 2, 2009. We often wonder why a particular method is touted as the “best” in educational practices.

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Karen Hicks

EDUC 615

March 2, 2009

  • We often wonder why a particular method is touted as the “best” in educational practices.

  • Where and when did educators or people interested in education begin to push a curriculum or instructional methods as the “best” way for education?

  • To understand where we are today, we need to look at those who came before.


  • To learn a bit about educational historians

  • To be able to answer a short quiz about the historians

  • To understand where some of today’s “new” ideas came from

Charles Eliot

Johann Friedich Herbart

Fredrich Froebel

Herbert Spencer

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi

Thomas Jefferson

Noah Webster

Ben Franklin

William Holmes McGruffey

Benjamin Rush

Horace Mann




Charles Eliot1834 - 1926

  • President of Harvard for forty years; introduced the “elective system” giving Harvard students a greater role in determining the focus of their own education

  • Harvard Professor of Mathematics and Chemistry in 1858

  • Concerned about the relationship between education and economic growth

  • Enhanced the graduate program and professional schools at Harvard which lead to graduate programs becoming a central part of the American university

  • Chairman of the Committee of Ten on Secondary School Studies (1892) – influenced uniformity in high school curriculums and college entrance requirements and urged secondary schools to establish an elective system of courses for their students

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Johann Friedrich Herbart1776-1841

  • A German philosopher, psychologist, and educator who laid the foundations of scientific study of education

  • Learning process – new ideas could enter the mind through association with similar ideas already present and by building up sequences of ideas important to the individual

    • Devised educational programs based on the aptitudes, abilities, and interests of students

    • First scientist to distinguish instructional process from subject matter

    • Five-step method of teaching instruction – “Five Formal Steps of the Recitation”

      • Preparation = prepare the pupils to be ready for the new lesson

      • Presentation = present the new lesson

      • Association = associate the new lesson with ideas studied earlier

      • Generalization = use examples to illustrate the lesson’s major points

      • Application = test pupils to ensure they had learned the new lesson

  • Emphasized that the proper correlation of curriculum materials would give students an understanding of the world

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  • Fredrich Froebel1782-1852

    • German educationalist who developed the kindergarten system (children’s garden)

    • As a private tutor using his “hands-on learning” approach in his pupils’ garden, Froebel realized that action and direct observations were the best ways to educate.

    • Kindergarten system with an emphasis on play and its use of ‘gifts’ (play materials) and ‘occupations’ (activities)

    • Teacher’s role – a loving, supportive guide rather than a lecturer

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    Herbert Spencer1820-1903

    • English philosopher and father of Social Darwinism

    • Study – 5 areas

      • 1) those activities which directly minister to self-preservation;

      • 2) those activities which, by securing the necessaries of life, indirectly administer to self-preservation;

      • 3) those activities which have for their end the rearing and discipline of offspring;

      • 4) those activities which are involved in the maintenance of proper social and political relations;

      • 5) those miscellaneous activities which fill up the leisure part of life, devoted to the gratification of the tastes and feelings

    • Controversial ideas – remove Latin and Greek as areas of study.

    • The study of science was a necessity

    • Believed that learning should occur through using the senses when a student interacts with the environment; encourage children to explore and discover

    • His ideas about curriculum were widely accepted in the US

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    Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi1746-1827

    • Early school experience emphasized questions and discussions rather than memorization

    • Wrote Leonhard and Gertrude (1783) and How Gertrude Teaches her Children emphasizing his views on social and educational reform

    • Child centered education

    • Learning should come from the direct experience of the children

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    Thomas Jefferson1743-1826

    • Saw a direct correlation between literacy, citizenship and successful self-government

    • Proposed a free public system of schools

    • Proposal included three grades for rich and poor students. In these grades, students would be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic.

    • Students who succeeded in the first three grades would have additional lessons in Latin, Greek, geography, and higher math.

    • Children who did well with the additional lessons would go on to college.

    • His proposal failed because of a lack of money.

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    Noah Webster1758-1843

    • Felt that American students should have textbooks on the American language and experience

    • Wrote three books- a speller, a grammar book, and a reader

    • His speller became known as “The American Spelling Book.”

    • Fulfilled a need for students to have textbooks and reference books that related to the “new” American culture

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    Ben Franklin1706-1790

    • Self-educated man who felt that science was the key to solving problems

    • Planned an English language school with a curriculum that focused on scientific and practical skills

    • His goal was to have students who were aware of the way learning connected to the world.

    • His focus on science and utilitarian subjects was very different from the classical tradition

    • Wanted to prepare students to make contributions in all areas of life

    • His major contribution was his push for a new kind of education that would correspond to the needs of a new nation.

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    William Holmes McGuffey1800-1873

    • Known for his passion for education and preaching the gospel

    • Became a teacher at the age of 14, he had 48 students in a one room school

    • Wrote a series of readers for students

    • The first reader used phonics to teach reading

    • The second reader used vivid stories the children could remember.

    • His readers were meant to promote morality through stories. These stories were about character and truth.

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    Benjamin Rush

    • Top priority was a reform of American education

    • New kind of education was required for the new democracy

    • Felt that the success of the United States depended on science

    • Believed that women should have a suitable education to instruct their children

    • His system of education promoted training for men and women in the understanding of democracy.

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    Horace Mann1796-1859

    • Known as the “Father of American Public Education”

    • Believed that society could be improved through education and proper environment

    • Believed that state organized education could teach moral and civic values without promoting a specific doctrine

    • Pushed for education laws that would require towns to provide school for all children whether they were residents or not

    • Founded first state institutions for training teachers, believed that teaching was a skill that required development

    • Convinced that public education could create a better society, education was an equalizer for all men

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    • The first to distinguish instruction from subject matter was Herbart or Franklin?

    • Herbart

    • Urged secondary schools to establish an elective system of courses? Eliot or Jefferson

    • Eliot

    • Developed kindergarten? Froebel or Jefferson?

    • Froebel

    • Proposed a free public school system. Jefferson or Froebel

    • Jefferson

    • Developed the McGuffey Readers. Jefferson or McGuffey

    • McGuffey

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    Charles Eliot. (n.d.).

    Charles William Eliot.

    Friedrich Froebel and Informal Education. (n.d.).

    Herbert Spencer.

    Herbert Spencer (1820-1903).

    Holmes, Brian. Herbert Spencer. Prospects. 1994(24).

    Horace Mann. Only a Teacher.

    Johann Friedrich Herbart.

    Johann Friedrich Herbart.

    Kindig, Thomas. (2007). Benjamin Franklin. Signers of the declaration of independence: Short biographies of each of the 56 declaration signers.

    Kindig, Thomas. (2007). Benjamin Rush. Signers of the declaration of independence: Short biographies of each of the 56 declaration signers.

    Leitch, Alexander. (1978). Rush, Benjamin.

    Mason-King, Pam. (n.d.). Horace Mann. Retrieved October 1, 2007 from

    Meiss, Christina. Benjamin Franklin.

    Noah Webster.

    Smith, Mark. (1997). Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi.

    Sparagana, Jeff. (2002). The educational theory of Thomas Jefferson.

    Wassenhove, Emily. Benjamin Rush.

    Weinstein, David. (2002). Herbert Spencer.

    William Holmes McGuffey. (2007).

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