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Education, Society, and Economic Opportunity

Education, Society, and Economic Opportunity: A Historical Perspective on Persistent Issues

Maris A. Vinovskis
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Education, Society, and Economic Opportunity
    Book Description:

    In this book, an eminent educational historian examines some important aspects of American schooling over the past centuries, illuminating the relation between education and other broad changes in American society and providing a historical perspective for contemporary efforts at school reform.Maris Vinovskis critically reviews and integrates recent work in educational history and provides new research on neglected topics. He discusses such issues as: the gradual shift from the family to the public schools in the responsibility for educating the young; the rise and fall of infant schools between 1840 and 1860; the crisis in the teaching of morality in the public schools of the mid-nineteenth century; early efforts to provide schooling for impoverished children; and the evolution of the belief that education improves individual economic and social mobility. He also studies school attendance and discovers that a much higher percentage of children may have attended public high schools in the nineteenth century than has been assumed, investigates when the practice of placing children in grades according to their age became widespread, and assesses whether different age groups in previous eras varied in their support for schooling-as they seem to be doing now.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14403-1
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    The field of American educational history is an exciting and challenging area of research today. Since the 1960s, scholars with a variety of perspectives and methodologies have made invaluable contributions to our understanding of American educational development. Particularly important are the contributions of social and economic historians, who have broadened the definition of educational history and significantly expanded our understanding of the nature and development of public schools in the past. Much of this work has been expertly summarized by the late Lawrence Cremin in his three-volume survey of American education (1970, 1980, 1988) and in more focused analytic studies...

  5. Part One Family, Schools, and the Challenges of Economic Opportunity and Social Reform

    • Chapter 1 Family and Schooling in Colonial and Nineteenth-Century America
      (pp. 3-16)

      In 1960 Bernard Bailyn called for a new and broader interpretation of how American education developed during colonial times—one that recognized the important historical role of the family in the transmission of culture from one generation to the next. Many of the specific elements of his analysis need to be reconsidered and revised, but Bailyn’s challenge to historians to study the interactions between the family and schooling in the socialization of the young continues to inspire and guide researchers.

      In spite of the wide circulation and acceptance of Bailyn’s views on education in early America, few scholars have written...

    • Chapter 2 A Ray of Millennial Light: Early Education and Social Reform in the Infant School Movement in Massachusetts, 1826–40
      (pp. 17-44)
      Dean May

      The editors of theBoston Recorder and Religious Transcriptshowed little restraint in their enthusiasm for a Boston infant school in 1829: “Infants, taken from the most unfavorable situations in which they are ever placed, from the abodes of poverty and vice, are capable of learning at least a hundred times as much, a hundred times as well, and of being a hundred times as happy, by the system adopted in infant schools, as by that which prevails in the common schools throughout the country. The conclusion most interesting to every friend of education is, that the infant school system...

    • Chapter 3 The Crisis in Moral Education in Antebellum Massachusetts
      (pp. 45-72)

      The citizens of Massachusetts had always prided themselves on their commitment to schooling and the role education played in fostering public morality. Yet concern about public education became evident in the early 1850s as the growing numbers of Irish immigrants raised questions about the ability of public schools to facilitate the assimilation of the newcomers. At the same time, Catholic calls for a parochial school system sparked a spirited defense of the religious and moral training provided by the public schools.

      It was quite a shock, therefore, when the Boston newspaper headlines in November 1856 suddenly revealed “Corruption and Crime...

    • Chapter 4 Schooling and Poverty in Nineteenth-Century America
      (pp. 73-91)

      All societies are confronted with the problem of working with poor children. Often this means finding ways to overcome or compensate for their disadvantaged backgrounds. A common response among developed nations is to work through the educational system to provide these children with the skills and values they will need to function effectively in society. Indeed, concern for disadvantaged children in the United States today has led many policy makers (Bennett, 1988) to look to the schools for assistance.

      In spite of a strong and persistent belief in the importance of education in preparing future citizens, not everyone agrees that...

    • Chapter 5 Horace Mann on the Economic Productivity of Education
      (pp. 92-105)

      During the past decade economists have become increasingly aware of the economic value of educational improvements. Although there is no consensus on the rate of return to investments in education, most economists agree that education is one of the major factors in economic growth (Bowman, 1966; Schultz, 1961a). Historians have also begun to investigate the role of education in America’s past. Some economic historians have tried to assess the contribution of education to the economic growth of nineteenth-century America (Fishlow, 1966; Solomon, 1969). Others have reexamined the works of writers who stressed the importance of investments in human resources (Carlton,...

    • Chapter 6 Immigrants and Schooling
      (pp. 106-122)

      Most Americans are either immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. As successive waves of immigrants came to the New World, they and their children encountered problems in adapting to a different environment. Many scholars, as well as the public, believe that schools played a key role in that transition, by either facilitating or hindering the immigrants’ assimilation into American life.

      In this chapter I shall explore the relation between immigrants and schools in four different time periods: colonial America, antebellum America, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the post-World War II period. The relation between immigrants and schools...

  6. Part Two Attendance, Institutional Arrangements, and Social Support for Education

    • Chapter 7 The Controversy over the Beverly High School
      (pp. 125-141)
      Michael B. Katz and Edward Stevens Jr.

      The essays below continue a debate that began with the publication ofThe Irony of Early School Reform: Educational Innovation in Mid-Nineteenth Century Massachusettsby Michael B. Katz. One celebrated part of this important work was a study of the controversy over the public high school in Beverly, Massachusetts, including a close analysis of the vote in 1860 to abolish the school. These essays originally appeared inHistory of Education Quarterly(vol. 27, no. 2 [summer 1987]: 241–58) on the occasion of the publication ofThe Origins of Public High Schools: A Reexamination of the Beverly High School Controversyby...

    • Chapter 8 Have We Underestimated the Extent of Antebellum High School Attendance?
      (pp. 142-156)

      Public high schools were relatively rare in antebellum America. Given their lack, it is not surprising that many scholars have concluded that only a small percentage of children ever attended one. Indeed, Edward Krug, in his multivolume study of high schools, observed that even by the 1880s “it was a rare thing to go to high school” (1969: 11).

      It is true that most antebellum communities, especially those in states outside of New England, did not provide public high schools for their teenagers (Grizzell, 1923). But in some regions, like New England, many cities and towns had established them. The...

    • Chapter 9 Public High School Attendance in Massachusetts in 1875
      (pp. 157-170)

      In chapter 8 I explored the extent and nature of public high school attendance in Essex County, Massachusetts, in 1860. Unfortunately, I could not calculate any statewide estimates of public high school attendance because data on high school attendance were fragmentary and available only from a limited number of published local school reports. In 1875, however, the Massachusetts superintendent of education started collecting information on the number of public high school students. These data, combined with information from the state census for that year and with other government figures, enable us to examine in considerable detail the extent and determinants...

    • Chapter 10 Historical Development of Age Stratification in Schooling
      (pp. 171-193)
      David L. Angus and Jeffrey E. Mirel

      Life-course analysis is exceedingly popular among social historians because it provides a flexible framework for investigating the lives of individuals. Emphasis is placed on understanding the historical background of cohorts as well as the institutional settings in which they lived. But although the role of norms and social organizations in affecting the expectations and experiences of people is stressed, it is seldom investigated. Instead, the existence of these regulatory norms and social organizations is simply assumed.

      The age stratification of American society is a common theme in life-course studies. Roles and activities are frequently segregated by age. Schools, for example,...

    • Chapter 11 A Historical Perspective on Support for Schooling by Different Age Cohorts
      (pp. 194-212)

      The strain on government resources during the 1970s and 1980s has raised concern about direct or indirect competition for assistance among subgroups of the population. In particular, there is a widespread and growing belief that the elderly have benefited from government assistance at the expense of children. Figures showing the decrease in poverty among the elderly and an increase in poverty among children frequently are cited as evidence of this trend. Critics often accuse the elderly of using their political power to maintain their relative advantages over groups such as children that cannot personally participate in the political process (Bengston,...

  7. References
    (pp. 213-230)
  8. Index
    (pp. 231-235)