Foundations of Education
Today we see many of the Jeffersonian principles in action. We have attempted to expand the right to a free primary education to include all races and religions, so as to offer the opportunities of social mobility equally. One of Jefferson 's fundamental concerns was that education serve the democratic system. His belief that all members of society be able to make competent political judgments through general education is an analogue to the modern no child left behind ' policy our nation is attempting to adopt. Jefferson proposed more state and federal control over education, so that the population could be equally and properly educated. Our current system of accountability and standardized testing is an attempt to ensure a general knowledge base for the entire population. There are many positive aspects of this kind of system, but it ignores many important aspects of education in general. If students are constantly studying for standardized tests based on a general knowledge base, they are not able to focus on differentiation. This is not a practical system, as it does not take individual goals and interests into consideration, reserving that ability for college. Any nation as diverse as ours cannot hope to effectively teach a common curriculum with a common method. Loyola University holds its common curriculum as a cornerstone of college education, but it also encourages students to criticize, analyze, and question both the material and the system in concurrence with the Jesuit ideals it holds. This is much closer to a true Jeffersonian system, although its very nature as a private institution places it outside of Jefferson 's realm of concern.
Horace Mann would be the next great influence on modern education. He was the most outspoken proponent of a practical education, one which related the concepts being taught to the future careers and vocations the students might choose to pursue. His philosophy of education included the theory that education provided the power of social mobility and the ability to live outside the status quo. Much like Franklin, Mann believed that the principle purpose of education was to allow the individual to better themselves and their position in life. Equally important was an exposure to the ideas and doctrines that form moral guides and spiritual beliefs. Although he was a proponent of non-sectarian religious education, he was not a proponent of religious indoctrination. In his development of the common school movement, he says, When the teacher, in the course of his lessons or lectures on the fundamental law arrives at a controverted text, he is either to read it without comment or remar; or at most, he is only to say that the passage is the subject of disputation, and that the schoolroom is neither the tribunal to adjudicate, nor the forum to discuss it.
This comment reflects the development of the American ideal for the School System. Fundamentally, we are still struggling to come to terms with this type of education. Throughout the history of American education, the greatest struggle has been the degree to which political and religious beliefs should affect education. While in Mann 's time an abundance of religious indoctrination was the issue, we are currently facing a right-wing backlash against the separation of church and state as it relates to the school system. Mann proposed that students be shown Christian values, not inflicted with them, so that that they may make their own choices. In today 's public schools, a religious or moral education is absolutely maligned in favor of an intellectual elitist attitude that neglects spiritual development altogether.
Finally, the developments of John Dewey and Johann Pestolazzi would set the stage for the state of modern education. As the United States developed a more rigid system of education, it became apparent that more systematic practices were necessary, as well as changes to the methods in which subjects were taught. Pestolazzi continued the practical nature of the Herbartian movement to an even greater extent by extending the practicality to the home and the maternal method of instruction. While it economic benefits may have influenced his championing of women as natural teachers (they were paid a third as much at the time), it brought the educational system to a level of equality unseen in other careers. John Dewey 's developments of teacher education combine with Jefferson 's to form the modern requirements for teaching certification.
While all of these figures were tremendously influential, the state of the American educational system is far from stable. The reason these figures stand alone as the most influential is that their concerns and actions are at the basis of all the current issues in the educational system today. The role of education is still something we struggle to define, as is the nature of education. Is it the role of a state to control the opinions and ideologies through education, or are we truly a free nation? With the growth of the internet and other forms of free information, we are approaching a time when we must truly decide what is knowledge, what is necessary education, and what is the role of the school in modern culture.
Spring, Joel. "The American School." New York, McGraw Hill (2001).
Cited: Spring, Joel. "The American School." New York, McGraw Hill (2001).