American Public Education Timeline

  • New England Primer

    Early textbook used in Colonies
  • Lifetime school attendance . . .

    is less than 82 days. Yet somehow these fellows come up with the Declaration of Independence, and later write the Constitution.
  • Thomas Jefferson promotes education as essential to democracy

    Jefferson believes voters should be educated. Beyond that, the cleverest should receive higher level education
  • 1st attempt at universal education

    Unsuccessfull Virginia Assembly proposal to guarantee 3 years of education for all children.
  • Noah Webster works to eliminate British English

  • Blue Back Speller

    Webster promotes a new national language. This new language is suprisingly similar to English. Thus Webster takes credit for something the English came up with. Taking credit where it is not due becomes a major theme in American history.
  • Statewide school systems

    Ideas of statewide systems and universal education start to become a reality
  • Horace Mann Massachusetts first Sec. of Education

    Mann promotes "common schools," publicly funded and available to the rich and poor
  • Mass Immigration of Irish Catholics

    Caught in a double whammy, Irish Catholics object to English protestant schooling. Who can blame them?
  • NY Great school debate

    Catholics unsuccessful in getting government to support Catholic schools, so they create their own. Actually, they do successfully get the curriculum changed, but by then have lost interest.
  • Frederick Douglas opposes segregated schools

    His work is successful in Mass by 1855. Most other states follow suit more than 100 years later.
  • Massachusetts legislation ends segregated schools

    Massachusetts shows the way by being fair to blacks. 150 years later they give us Mit.
  • After Civil War, blacks flock to education

    Blacks see education as the way out after years of slavery. Not a bad thought.
  • Westward Expansion

    This brings the rise of the female teacher, changing forever how young children are taught.
  • America educates more children than any other country

    Do we do it better, or just more? American success in the next decades show we do the job right.
  • Dewey publishes "The School and Society"

    Dewey is called the "father of progressive education," also called "child centered" education. Dewey seems to think kids like to do what's good for them. Or perhaps he thinks because they like to do it it's good for them. Children have fun, learn not so much. This is what happens when you let philosophers run anything. [I made that up, this is the only time in history anyone actually let a philospher tell them how to run an organization.]
  • Immigration going wild

    From 1890 to 1930 we see our greatest period of immigration. Everyone wants to be an American in the 20th Century. Will we still be popular in the middle of the 21th?
  • Gary, Indiana tries child centered education

    Wirt puts Dewey's ideas into practice, calling the system "work-study-play." Children of all talents can succeed, not just those of an academic bent. This makes everyone feel better, even the academically inclined.
  • Jewish mothers in NYC reject Indiana style education

    New York City tries Indiana's child centered model. Ambitious parents find this revolting, since they want their sons to be doctors, not steel workers or meat packers. Who couldn't see that coming?
  • End of WWI begins push to "English Only" education

    So we have some exposure to France and Germany during the war, and immediately decide we need to be more English. Term "Ugly American" follows shortly.
  • Rise of school management leads to fall of USSR

    They are still with us, with a vengeance. These geniuses start "career tracking," which only works if you can figure out early who the stars will be. Oh, wait, if it was preordained, then why would you need to track them? Anyway, many would-be astrophysicists are trained to be street sweepers, and only manage to become astrophysicists by extraordinary personal effort. The only good thing is that the Soviet Union copies our strategy, resulting in its eventual fall without a nuke being fired.
  • Baby Boomers hit schools

    This is the real greatest generation. They grow up with innoculations and the threat of nuclear war. But they also get to run in the DDT fog behind the fogging truck, and be exposed to all other sorts of environmental problems. Teachers and schools are overwhealmed, and just want them to leave.
  • 3/5 complete high school - minorities, women need not apply

    And of those, half go to college. Colleges become so rich that they can pay their football coaches like they were movie stars. Of course, this is a white male only thing. Women and minorities have to go to colleges with bad football teams, and don't get to go to medical or law school.
  • Brown v. Board of Education

    The Warren court justices see the light. [Would the Roberts court see it? They certainly don't now.] Saying segregation is bad is important, but things don't change as fast as they should.
  • Sputnik

    Soviet Union beats US to space. US declares a crisis in American education, and proceeds to retool and put a man on the moon. [Compare 1980, when Reagan declares a similar crisis in our schools. We tool up the financial markets and almost bankrupt the country. Then in 2000 Bush feels bad about education, so kids are tested, but banks aren't.]
  • Desegregation results in unemployed black teachers

    They didn't see this one coming. Never trust the man.
  • South defies segregation

    As predicted by everyone.
  • Oswald shoots Kennedy, Johnson . . .

    becomes president and knows that blacks are humans, and that the country cannot continue to deny it. Johnson is instrumental in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or 1965. The latter makes a funded non-mandate. As opposed to Bush's unfunded mandates. This is why Johnson will be remembered as a great leader while the following joke will always be funny: "Bush was born on third base and thought he hit a triple."
  • The Age of Empowerment

    Chicanos, Indians, women, and the disabled get their chance in the 1970's. Bilingual education is still an issue, but Title IX does the trick for women. Now the issue is how to catch the boys up. [Bus them, maybe? Separate schools so they don't have to compete with the smart girls?]
  • Reagan's Crisis in Education

    Reagan wakes up one morning and decides we have a "Nation at Risk." His solution is to bring free market principles to education. His economic ideas of trickle down are discredited, and his deregulation of the S&L's costs the taxpayers millions, but somehow his ideas about education have a long shelf life. We move toward a country of vouchers, home school, charter schools, and No Child Left Behind. None of these actually solves the problem, but many people feel better.
  • American Heritage

    magazine publishes an article entitled [if I remember correctly] "Reforming Public Schools: 200 Years of Crisis."
  • No Child Left Behind