- Running Head: ELEMENTARY EDUCATION
Child Labor [Name of Student] [Name of Institution]
In elementary school your child learns many things. All his experiences at school are designed to produce in him a desire to learn, to help his neighbor, to like his school, to honor his home, and to love America.
With few exceptions, all of us spent a good portion of our lives in public school classrooms. We may recall faces, sounds, or places--some pleasant, some not so pleasant. In our society elementary schooling is one of the most profound experiences of childhood, and its effects always remain with us. Apart from our families and mass media such as television and films, public schooling, mass education, remains our most powerful vehicle for the social and cultural conditioning of children.
Elementary Education in Transition
The people of the United States of America and the leaders who have spearheaded educational improvements during the years since the Jamestown colony in Virginia was settled can well be proud of the progress made in elementary education. A deep and abiding zeal for their children's education is a tradition in this country that is as deep-rooted and fundamental as the zeal for liberty, freedom, and justice. In fact, adequate education of the masses was recognized from the beginning as one of the pillars upon which a democratic form of society must rest. This fundamental concept holds just as true today. Its continued recognition has been one of the forces which has helped to bring about the phenomenal development which elementary (as well as secondary and higher) education has experienced in this country.
In the early colonial days most of children's schooling took place in the homes; instruction was given by parents or tutors. After 1650 it was not uncommon for several families to club together and to hire some woman to instruct their children for them. Thus the "dame school" began in this country. It increased rapidly during the last half of the seventeenth century and continued to flourish throughout most of the eighteenth century, at least in Massachusetts (Updegraff, 1907, p. 137). The following excerpts from Small's book give a vivid insight into the general character of the dame school. (Small, 1914, pp. 162-164)
The dame school was a necessity of the times. Boys were not generally admitted to the master's school until they could 'stand up and read words of two syllables and keep their places'; girls were not admitted at all. The teaching of the simple rudiments was made a family, not a public matter. . . .
The floor was scoured to whiteness and covered with the finest sand. Her instruction in arithmetic was oral, Miss Betty making the figures on the sanded floor with her rod . . . and her pupils, with their square pieces of birch bark and bits of charcoal, copying the sums she gave them. . . .
The children, having walked long distances, were made very comfortable at the long recess, as their dinners were many times frozen, and sometimes their food required cooking. Miss Betty was devoted in her care for them in preparing their frugal repast. Apples were roasted and nuts were cracked in profusion, and then with their old-fashioned games they had an enjoyable time.
The first elementary schools were most simple and direct in their organization and management (Suzzallo, 1906, p. 10). They were generally held in the homes of the teachers or in one-room buildings of the crudest sort. Although some New England towns built schoolhouses rather early (about 1649), the majority of towns continued to operate the common elementary schools in churches, "vacant carpenters' shops, spare rooms in old dwellings, unoccupied barns, basement rooms, and other places as chance presented." (Bunker, 1916, p. 2)
The towns which did build separate schoolhouses constructed them of "logs with a rough puncheon board running around the walls. Paper greased with lard often took the place of glass in the windows." (Cubberley, 1919, pp. 35-36)
The school benches on which we sat were without backs and sometimes so high that we beguiled the weary school hours by swinging our feet violently back and forth, by which process we worked off a good deal of animal vigor. We sometimes tipped off the bench backwards, and fell atop the children behind us, when we all set up a prodigious howling; not because we were hurt, but we enjoyed the noise hugely and prolonged the commotion as long as we could. When the drowsiness of the dame deepened into a snoring nap, we ran about the room and with the zest that accompanies the doing of forbidden things, we swiftly overturned the benches, misplaced the articles on the table, threw the spelling cards out of the window, and not infrequently ran out into the street.
Contrast these early beginnings with the highly modern city and rural schools of today with their functionally designed classrooms, scientific lighting, artistic design and color, special service rooms, landscaped grounds, wealth of teaching and learning materials, and transportation, health, and welfare services for pupils. Schools today, as in former years, strive to incorporate the best that is known about good schools for children. Each generation has had to face the problems and trends of that generation. The changing society created new problems and needs. Advances in educational thought and research raised other questions. Educational progress has been the net result of the efforts at harmonizing the needs of the society and the frontiers of educational knowledge. Problems of organization, administration, supervision, and teaching have been emergent along with the total educational enterprise. The role of organization and administration has always been that of identifying problems and trends, giving leadership to needed and desired changes, and creating the organizational and administrative environment, policies, and procedures so that the best education of the times might be made available to children.
The Role Of The Elementary School
The Administrator or teacher who wishes to examine present administrative and organizational practices in elementary schools and to give leadership to the reconstruction and improvement of these practices needs to fortify himself with soul-searching answers to a number of basic questions. How do we in this country feel about our children and what are our sober heartfelt desires' for our children? What are the ideals that we the people have for our children and their education and continued well-being? Who are the children being served by elementary schools? What are the needs and characteristics of these children? How must schooling be organized and carried forward in order that it may most effectively relate itself to the needs and characteristics of growing children? What is the setting within which the school must undertake its task? What should the elementary school strive to do for children? How may the program of the elementary school be related to children's subsequent school experiences? By what guideposts may we appraise and revise the facilities and the ways whereby elementary schools serve children?
No one person or group can be expected to produce answers to the preceding questions which would be acceptable in their entirety to all other individuals or groups.
The Children Served By Elementary Schools
Clarification of one's focus upon the role of the elementary school necessitates a delineation of the children served by such schools. Compulsory school attendance laws provide one angle from which to examine the problem. Compulsory attendance at school is not a recent concept. In England its beginnings have been traced to the year 1405 (F. C. Ensign Compulsory School Attendance and Child Labor, 1921, p. 10). In the United States the idea of compulsory education was expressed in the Massachusetts law of 1642 (Martin, 1898, p. 8). It was not until after 1860, however, that modern compulsory education laws appeared in the various states.
Compulsory school attendance has been accepted generally as an essential corollary to free public education. The state is responsible for making sure that all its children, for their own sake, receive education. A democratic state is also duty bound to demand for its own protection and preservation that all its children receive the essential elements of a good education. Compulsory school attendance laws are thus firmly rooted in social policy in this country.
The Purposes Of The Elementary School
Although the elementary school, the high school, and the college were each originally established for its own particular purpose and with little if any thought of having each of these units contribute its share to a common goal, yet in the process of time something like a common purpose has emerged. This merging of purposes has been brought about by a variety of factors, the most important of which is the extension of educational opportunity to an increasingly larger proportion of the children of each age group. At present a very high percentage of the children who complete the elementary school enter high school. A much larger percentage of those who enter high school complete the secondary program and many more avail themselves of some junior-college experience. The trend toward more common purposes for the various units of the school system is attested to by yearbooks of the Department of Superintendents, now called the American Association of School Administrators (American Association of School Administrators of the N.E.A., 1929 and 1931). Recent years have also witnessed a decided trend toward the belief that education at all levels should concern itself with the wholesome growth and development of each pupil, thus giving greater communality of focus to elementary and secondary education.
Research in the growth and development of children at all age levels is producing evidence which shows that growth is a continuous process and does not break up into segmented levels that have a one-to-one correspondence with administrative subdivisions of the school system. This is particularly true when growth is viewed from the standpoint of an individual child. Many of the aspects of growth and development are continuous from birth to senility. General reading ability, for example, does not reach its maximum development in the typical person at age 10 or 12 or 20; one's competence in gaining thought from the printed page may develop throughout adult life. One's concepts in science or social studies may likewise broaden and deepen with added reading and experience in adult life. Certainly the secondary schools and colleges, as well as the elementary schools, are now concerning themselves with development along these lines.
All of these factors which have contributed in bringing about more common purposes for the various segments of the school system cause us to view the functions of the elementary school in new lights. There was a time when most persons in education insisted upon special statements of objectives for each division of the school system. Courses of study, authors of professional treatises on elementary education, and state and national committees did pioneer work in particularizing the unique functions of the elementary school. A careful examination of the more recently formulated statements of the special functions of the elementary school reveals their similarity to the general purposes of education in American democracy. Recently some authors, recognizing this similarity, have developed their treatises on elementary education in terms of the contributions which the elementary school can make toward the general purposes of education in this country. (Lee and Lee, 1950; Caswell and Foshay, 1950)
The curriculum of the elementary school consists of the sum total of educative experiences of children during their sojourn in the first unit of the educational system. The curriculum may be considered as the vehicle whereby and through which we hope to enable children to achieve the objectives of elementary education. The curriculum, therefore, is not merely a course of study, an organized program of studies, or a question of subject matter. It is more inclusive than any of these items. It represents all of the activities transpiring in school life through which a child learns. The various studies, organized activities, both curricular and extracurricular, and the entire social life and atmosphere of the school find their respective places in the curriculum. Each is designed to make its contribution toward the attainment of the ultimate goals of education.
The Importance Of The Curriculum
The curriculum, as the heart of the school, is the most important aspect of the elementary school. It is the curriculum which gives expression in concrete form to the educational theories and policies which govern elementary education in a given community. Whatever the accepted objectives of elementary education may be, the degree to which they are attained and the manner in which they are attained are determined in large measure by the curriculum and the educational theories which it represents. It is entirely within reason to believe that many present-day curricula are entirely out of harmony with modern objectives of elementary education, and hence make it relatively impossible for children to attain the goals which have been assigned to the elementary school of the twentieth century.
Additional testimony regarding the importance of the curriculum arises out of the current scene of public and professional concern for education. The number of articles on education in lay journals, the number of lay organizations that have developed in recent years concerned with the promotion or destruction of public education, and the agitation of local lay groups about one or more phases of current school programs are ample testimony of a widespread lay interest in what the schools teach and how well it is done. The public is restless and deeply interested in school curricula, perhaps reflecting an unworded recognition of the need for curriculum change.
From the educator's standpoint there is equal restlessness about present school curricula. It is doubtful whether any previous period in our history has produced a greater volume and variety of books and articles in professional journals on curriculum revision than the past decade. Certainly at no previous time have as many professional organizations or as many local faculty groups engaged themselves in curriculum revision activities. Unless the curriculum were important all this interest and activity would not prevail. Neither would the interest be so widespread if there were not general recognition of the need for curriculum revision. The two main sources impelling curriculum change are treated in the next two sections.
Cultural Changes That Impel Curriculum Change
The culture of the people of the United States, like all cultures that have been affected by science and technology, is in a period of fundamental change. The United States is in a transition period from a laissez faire to an interdependent society. This transition is happening during a period when interdependence among the nations of the world is progressing at an amazingly increased rate. The United States is currently involved in discovering for itself a new role in the one-world concept, while at the same time endeavoring to readjust and revise its philosophy and practices to an increasingly interdependent internal culture.
Industrialization has altered the traditional pattern and conception of our economy. In 1820, 71.8 per cent of the United States labor force was employed in agricultural pursuits. This percentage had been reduced to 15 by 1950. Trade, transportation, clerical, and selling occupations engaged only 10.8 per cent of our gainfully employed in 1870; by 1940 this percentage had shifted to 30. The pattern of individual enterprise has changed radically. In 1820 approximately 80 per cent of the people were self-employed; today only 15 per cent, including those in agriculture and the professions, are working for themselves. The role of individual enterprise in the total economy has diminished significantly. By 1937 all communications, electric light, power, and gas production was carried on by corporate enterprise. In addition, 96 per cent of all mining, 92 per cent of all manufacturing, 89 per cent of all transportation, and 84 per cent of all the financial business was in the hands of corporations. These changes have resulted in rather extensive divorce of ownership and control. Ownership is now largely in the form of stocks and bonds. Although this ownership is distributed widely, the individual stock or bond holder has little voice in the control and management of the corporations. Most people now work for someone else.
Educational Developments That Impel Curriculum Change
During the past 50 years, while cultural changes have been taking place at an accelerated rate, there have been significant developments within the field of education itself. Some of these intra-profession developments have much to do with the curriculum revision movement. The higher average level of preparation now possessed by the members of the profession make those members much better qualified to engage in curriculum rethinking. Advancements in the faculties and facilities of teacher-preparation institutions has given these institutions the equipment needed for discharging their roles in the movement of keeping schools abreast of the times.
Better qualified folks in all types of educational positions have caused, and at the same time made possible, an expanding interest in research. The latter interest has led to increases in the funds made available for research. Although funds for research in education are still pitifully meager, such monies as have been available have stimulated research and frontier thinking in all phases of education. Most of the internal changes in education itself have sprung more or less from the impetus given by research.
No period in the history of American education has witnessed the intensive study of educational problems by the profession itself as has the period since 1915. General research in the curriculum has been particularly extensive since 1940. A definite trend of the times is large-scale curriculum projects sponsored by various types of agencies and carried forward through the participation of cooperating schools in different parts of the country.
The Basic Orientation Of The Curriculum
One of the first issues facing elementary-school workers interested in curriculum revision is a thorough clarification of what the school should do for children. The usual outline of objectives is somewhat general and leaves much leeway of interpretation. Although the purposes of education as set forth by the Educational Policies Commission are stated in terms of conduct proficiencies, many persons assume that proficiency in all types of conduct situations can be achieved satisfactorily through a study of books and subject matter. The curriculum is thus conceived in terms of subjects to be studied with only a minimum sprinkling of activities through which children could practice the application of desirable learnings. Under such a concept the curriculum rests heavily upon the acquisition of knowledge and skill in the hope that the children will make the transfer to life situations. Schools which rest their case primarily in studying subject matter claim that they serve as broad a list of objectives as schools which conceive of the curriculum in terms of a broad array of activities which give children opportunity to practice desired behaviors as well as to study about them.
Protection And Promotion Of Children's Health
Educational viewpoint and policy in this country have now accepted squarely the school's responsibility for its share in the protection and promotion of children's physical and mental health and well-being. Educational thought was slow, and schools were still slower, to recognize the school's part in health. Although the paramount importance of health in the lives of individuals and in the welfare of a people has been recognized from an early period, it has not been until very recent years that health has gained its rightful emphasis in education. Most of the progress which has been made in the field of school health work has come since 1900 (Wood and Rowell, 1927, p. 18) and more particularly since 1915 (Nash, 1931, p. 40). Invariably the emphasis upon health has resulted largely from deficiencies discovered during times of war. Even physical education was late in developing; in 1900 only 83 out of 273 leading cities had appointed directors of physical education. Although some states had physical-education legislation prior to World War I, most of the laws relating to physical education have been placed upon the statutes since 1915 (Storey and Small, 1918). By 1930, 37 states had passed physical-education laws; 32 states had prepared manuals; and 22 had state directors. In 1904 the average time devoted to health instruction in Grades 1 to 6, inclusive, was 64 minutes per week; by 1926 this time allotment had increased to 245 minutes per week. (Mann, 1928, p. 122)
The school's present full acceptance of its interest in, and concern for, children's health is based on several factors. Every phase of a child's training is conditioned by the state of his health. Susceptibility to disease, physical defects, or bad habits of living are handicaps to success in intellectual pursuits. Even if a child attains high academic achievements, they are of little value to him in life unless he also has physical vigor. It would seem poor economy for a school system to spend thousands or even millions of dollars for effective instruction and then refuse to provide the relatively few dollars necessary to keep the pupils in such physical condition as would permit their taking advantage of this educational offering. The fact that the function of the elementary school is to promote the wholesome, well-rounded development of children in the direction of the purposes of education in American democracy provides the second basic reason for the school's interest in children's health. This requires an adequate, properly balanced diet; freedom from remediable defects, accidents, illness, and injurious environmental influences; a healthy organism undergoing normal physiological development; a healthy personality which encompasses mental, emotional, moral, and social health; and the gradual acquisition of habits, attitudes, and knowledge which will fortify the person's individual and community living throughout his life. The increasing importance of better health for school-age children was set forth dramatically in 1951 in a joint publication of the U. S. Children's Bureau, the U. S. Public Health Service, and the U. S. Office of Education. In a brochure which was given wide distribution, the leaders in these three federal agencies listed the following health priorities (U. S. Office of Education, 1951, p. 4.):
- Provision of significant experiences for learning to live healthfully in home, school, and community.
- Development of better screening techniques for detecting children needing medical attention.
- Development of local resources for diagnosis and treatment.
- Orientation of parents and of school and health personnel in modern concepts of mental health.
- Reduction of incidence of dental caries.
- Detection, diagnosis, and treatment of children with impaired hearing.
- Detection, diagnosis, and treatment of children with defective vision.
- Detection, diagnosis, and treatment of children with epilepsy.
- Recognition of the special health problems of the community.
- Provision and maintenance of adequate facilities to assure safe drinking water in schools.
- Provision and maintenance of sufficient sanitary, convenient toilet facilities in schools.
- Extension of nutritionally adequate and palatable school lunches which meet recommended sanitary standards.
- Elimination of environmental hazards and observance of safety precautions to prevent accidents.
- Provision for suitable education of children with physical handicaps
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