School Reform in Massachusetts: Comparing Educational Initiatives in 1893 and 1997
School Reform in Massachusetts: Comparing Educational Initiatives in 1893 and 1997. There always seems to be new reform ideas coming to our schools every year. Clearly, teachers are inept and we need politicians and college professors to keep retraining us. At last in Massachusetts, they only mess with the schools every century or so.
From the site:
The concept of reforming and changing schooling is not a new idea. This desire to make schools better has a long tradition. There are many examples of this throughout American history. However, one good example is the case of schools in Massachusetts. Two documents demonstrate the different ways educational reform has been approached. This essay will examine the written record of a speech made by Charles Eliot in 1893 where he laid out six key changes he felt were necessary for grammar schools in Massachusetts. This essay will also look at report published in 1997 by the Massachusetts Department of Education examining five years of state mandated educational reform initiatives in schooling. Surprisingly, many of the themes addressed by Eliot in 1893 are still being thought about in 1997 although there are also many differences in the documents.
Description of the 1893 Speech
Charles Eliot, the President of Harvard University, gave a speech at the Massachusetts State Teachers' Association Conference in December of 1893. The speech was titled, "The Grammar School of the Future." A written version of this speech was included in a collection of Eliot's work, Educational Reform: Essays and Addresses, which was published in 1898. As such, the written version of the speech has been edited and probably reads slightly different that what was presented at the conference. However, as the written version was published only a few years later and was prepared by the same author it is reasonable to assume the intellectual content remained unchanged.
As President of Harvard University, Eliot was in a position that was respected and his words would have been given serious consideration by the conference attendees. Further, Eliot had developed a reputation as an educational reformer. Although the speech was delivered to Massachusetts educators, it is reasonable to assume that Eliot intended for his ideas to be disseminated nationally and be given consideration beyond Massachusetts. This is evidenced by the inclusion of the speech in Educational Reform: Essay and Addresses. This speech then was delivered with the purpose of influencing the reform of schools nationwide.
There are six main reforms considered in Eliot's speech. To begin with, Eliot wanted every grammar school to have a playground. He thought this was important for both the health of the students and to create a better learning environment. Secondly, he believed that schools should purchase curriculum materials such as books and maps. He did not believe that a bare classroom where only the teacher had the textbook was conductive towards a learning environment. Not surprisingly, Eliot also thought that additional funding was necessary as a reform in and of itself. Further, he was appalled at the large class sizes of the day, which had one teacher with fifty or sixty students. Eliot wanted to move towards a teacher/student ratio near 25 to 1.