In a recent issue of History of Education, 37(5), Angela Davis examines the post-Depression debates regarding the proper behaviour of mothers and, more specifically, the preparation of young girls to take on that role.
This article investigates how girls were educated about sex, pregnancy and childbirth during the years 1930 to 1970. Based on the results of 92 oral-history interviews with Oxfordshire women, it explores how national debates surrounding sex education influenced what girls in Oxfordshire were taught. In addition, it examines how successful the women themselves thought this education had been in equipping them for maternity and whether they believed women could indeed be educated for motherhood.
The result is a fascinating look at the contexts in which many of the contemporary theories of mothering have emerged. (Related readings are provided below the fold.) Continue reading Preparing girls for motherhood, c.1930-1970
In a recent issue of Educational Theory, 58(3), Robin Zebrowski (pictured right) details some of the areas typically conflated in comparing the ideas of John Dewey with those of Herbert Spencer.
In educational scholarship, a number of comparisons have been made between the work of John Dewey and Herbert Spencer, many claiming that Spencer’s influence is unmistakable in Dewey’s theories or even that Dewey is derivative of Spencer. However, one must look beyond the surface similarities of Dewey and Spencer and recognize the drastically divergent views that each held on those very foundational notions upon which each built his educational program. In this essay, Robin Zebrowksi examines the theories of evolution, the directionality of organism and environment interaction, the agency of the individual, and the conceptualizations of progress in the respective works of Dewey and Spencer. Their underlying beliefs about the world and how it operates show that their philosophies cannot be reconciled. The educational theories that follow from these discrepancies, Zebrowski concludes, have incompatible and distinct implications for the classroom.
It is worth noting that Zebrowski’s criticism is directed primarily at Kieran Egan‘s book of 2002, Getting It Wrong from the Beginning: Our Progressivist Inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget. (My own comments on this work can be found in the article I published last summer in Perspectives on Science.) Continue reading Conflating the ideas of Dewey and Spencer
In a recent issue of History of Education Quarterly, 48(3), David S. Churchill examined the effects of Social Darwinian ideas on the educational policies of the Chicago Public School Board.
In February 1899, the Committee of Physical Culture of the Chicago Public School Board approved an intensive “anthropometric” study of all children enrolled in the city’s public schools. The study was a detailed attempt to measure the height, weight, strength, lung capacity, hearing, and general fitness of Chicago’s student population. Through 1899 and 1900, thousands of Chicago’s primary, grammar, and high school students had their bodies closely scrutinized, measured, weighed, tested, and, in a few cases, diagrammed. What the School Board members wanted to know was the “fitness” of the student body. Were Chicago public school students — many recently arrived immigrants from eastern and southern Europe — vital and vigorous children who could become energetic modern workers and citizens? (p. 341)
The results of this study had social and political implications.
Reassuringly, the authors stated that the students in the Chicago schools… showed “superiority” in “both size and physical development” when compared with children in other cities. Implicit in the social scientists’ comments was a desire to achieve an ideal type of body—an ideal that many Social Darwinist and eugenicists feared was disappearing. For some social reformers in the late 1890s loss of the ideal type was resulting in “a biological deterioration,” a deterioration caused by waves of immigration and resulting in social and economic degeneracy. (p. 343)
The response was a turn toward body-building, but couched specifically in gendered terms. Continue reading The rise of body-building in Chicago, 1890-1920
In 1976, the late, famed American historian Richard Hofstadter and Wilson Smith published a classic collection of documents critical in the development of the US university: American Higher Education, a Documentary History. Smith has now teamed up with NYU historian Thomas Bender to produce a sequel to the original volume, American Higher Education Transformed, 1940-2005 (Johns Hopkins U Press, 2008). The new book,
includes such seminal documents as Vannevar Bush’s 1945 report to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Science, the Endless Frontier; the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Brown v. Board of Education and Sweezy v. New Hampshire; and Adrienne Rich’s challenging essay “Taking Women Students Seriously.” Continue reading History of American College Education
The History of Education Society is accepting submissions for the Claude A. Eggertsen Prize for the dissertation judged to be the most outstanding in the field of History of Education. This includes work on schooling and educational institutions more broadly, and the dissertation may have a domestic or international focus. The next award will be presented at the fall 2008 meeting of the History of Education Society. The prize carries an award of $1,000 for the winner. Continue reading Eggertsen Prize in History of Education
In the latest History of Education Quarterly, 48(2), Andy Byford examines the role of education in promoting psychology as a science at the turn of the twentieth century in Russia.
…psychology lacked the status of an independent academic discipline at Russian universities. It was taught only as a component of philosophy and had the reputation of the latter’s ‘‘handmaiden.’’ Its scientific credentials within philosophy departments were, moreover, under constant attack from physiologists, neurologists and psychiatrists, who sought to redefine the discipline from a biological point of view, and at times even denied psychology the right to legitimate existence.
In fact it was only in the sphere of education that psychology was able to portray itself as a respectable science in its own right, especially in relation to pedagogy, whose own academic legitimacy, as a lowly practical professional discipline, was even more problematic than that of psychology. Yet the eminent status of psychology in the educational realm (as the ‘‘scientific foundation’’ of pedagogy) had to be continuously maintained, which was how teachers became the most important ‘‘interested’’ public to whom psychologists of different persuasions promoted the idealized visions of their discipline.
For those not familiar with the history of Russian psychology, Byford’s article provides a fascinating look at the period in which Lev Vygotsky — who undertook graduate training at the newly created Moscow Institute of Psychology — developed as a student and teacher. See below the fold for annotated references. Continue reading Psychology at High School in Late Imperial Russia
According to an item at Inside Higher Ed on Tuesday,
One of the most important documents in the history of American higher education — the Morrill Act … — has not been viewed in public since 1979 and has never been seen outside of Washington. But next week, the original law signed by President Lincoln to create the nation’s land grant universities will go on display at Iowa State University, as part of a special exhibit on the impact of the act and the 150th anniversary of Iowa State, which was designated as a land grant early in its history.
Why was the Morrill Act so significant? Because it essentially made possible the system of public colleges and universities that is, to this day, the backbone of American post-secondary education. Continue reading US Higher Education’s “Most Important Document”