Top-Rated Free Essay

Foundations of Education

Topics: Education, School, High school / Pages: 7 (1664 words) / Published: Jun 9th, 2005
Among the significant figures in the history of the American Educational System, few have had as much ideological and practical influence as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Horace Mann, John Dewy, and Johann Pestolazzi. Each altered the course of American education to a degree that the developments made during and after the lifetimes of each of these figures are practically manifested in today 's educational environment. In some cases, as with Franklin, much of his contribution was practical, with the establishment of public libraries and emphasis on self-education. Others, such as Dewy, were ideological pioneers that changed the methods of education. One can never overlook the role of politics in American Education; the regulation of education and the presence of Patriotic/Nationalist agendas in curriculum are still issues that we face today, those who played a significant role in the establishment of the current system also influence the fundamental goals and outcomes of that system. Benjamin Franklin is heralded as one of the greatest American philosophers as well as one of the most influential figures in American history. His fundamental desire for education and self-improvement would set an example for others to follow as well as establish a model for the educated American. He was also a major proponent of schools as both an ideological tool for indoctrinating members of other religions, as well as a method for assimilation of other races and cultures into the white Anglo model. We are still struggling as a culture to undo the influence of those who followed this model. Practices of exclusion, segregation, racism, and exploitation were typical of the early model of American education. Franklin notes, "Why increase the Sons of Africa, by Planting them here in America, where we have so fair an opportunity, by excluding all blacks and Tawnys and increasing the lovely white…" This statement is somewhat loaded in that it is apparently anti-slavery, but for the wrong reasons. It places an obvious racial value judgment on Blacks as intellectually inferior. The racist tendencies of his philosophy were not, however, the most important parts of Franklin 's development of education. His establishment of public libraries is probably the greatest accomplishment and boon to education to that time. Public libraries continue to offer the opportunity of free self-education. This ability is one of the most powerful tools for freedom a nation can possess. If censorship is avoided, it offers anyone individual control over their education. This is an absolutely necessary step towards a free state. Control over education and literature is control over thought and social mobility. This social mobility is one of the fundamental issues Benjamin attempted to address over the course of his life. He would be one of the most influential founding members of the Academy movement in early America, which both set the stage for the first high schools as well as beginning a movement of private education that still exists as an option today. Although Franklin 's intention with the academy movement was to provide social mobility to anyone, the result was a system that preserved the elite and excluded most others. Today it is possible to attend private College Preparatory Schools that are much the same as they were in Franklin 's time. Most are predominantly white, with high tuition that excludes middle and lower class students. They also tend to offer an intense curriculum similar to that proposed by Franklin. Concurrent to the developments of Franklin were the political and philosophical changes brought by Thomas Jefferson. Although Jefferson 's ideas on education were progressive in some ways, the racial and social hierarchies that dominated the period were very apparent in his work. Although he believed in free education for all Americans, this was an exclusive term, limited to white Americans. His ‘Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge ' in 1779 was a key piece of early educational legislation. It continued where Franklin left off, placing a high value on what Jefferson termed, "Common Sense" as well as practical reason. His view of education was one of dual purpose: to educate the citizen, and educate the leader. Jefferson believed that by being well versed in history and current events, one could make competent rational judgments in a variety of arenas . In a radical break from the previous doctrines, Jefferson was opposed to using schools to promote political or religious ideals. He felt that by developing a strong moral sense, good character, and broad knowledge base, an individual would naturally come to the correct conclusions in other arenas. In practice, these ideals were not necessarily carried out. He allowed his views on the natural intellectual aristocracy to be more of an influence on his actual political decisions than the ideals that led to this concept.
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.

Works Cited

Spring, Joel. "The American School." New York, McGraw Hill (2001).

Cited: Spring, Joel. "The American School." New York, McGraw Hill (2001).

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Foundation of Education
  • Foundation in Education
  • foundation of education
  • education foundation
  • Philosophy of Education for Foundations of Education
  • Psychological Foundation of Education
  • Sociological Foundation of Education
  • Psychological Foundation on Education
  • Anthropological Foundation of Education
  • foundations of education paper