The development of the American curriculum can be traced back to key individuals whose decisions and actions resulted in the changes experienced in the education system today. Such individuals include Catherine Beecher, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Horace Mann, and John Dewey. Scrutiny of the particular events prominent in their lives that led to the various changes in the American Curriculum will reveal how historical events helped to shape the current curriculum in the United States.
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Catherine Beecher was a remarkable woman who championed educational reforms and the role of women as teachers (Hoffman & Weiler, n. d.). In the 1800s, women’s roles were usually confined to the household. Beecher saw an opportunity for women to be in the teaching field after noticing that men were abandoning teaching for business. Beecher, who had managed to get an education through self-study, cofounded a seminary to train women to be mothers and educators. Although she held that women were a valuable workforce, Beecher maintained that women’s role was more at home, and teaching was an extension of that role (Hoffman & Weiler, n.d.).
Another key figure who played a major role in the development of the American Curriculum is Thomas Jefferson. In 1779, Jefferson proposed that there should be a system of free education, which could be funded through taxes. Free individuals could get an education under the system for three years or longer if their families could afford to pay for it. He later proposed a system of education for male students only as per the times in 1871 and further a system for the best students. The university was to be the highest level of education.
In 1747, Benjamin Franklin published a pamphlet containing proposals that related to the education of youth after realizing that there was a need to train young men and prepare them for leadership (National Humanities Center, n.d.). At the time, Pennsylvania did not have an academy to offer such education. Franklin organized a group of trustees, and the academy was opened in 1751, which later graduated its first class in 1757.
Horace Mann, a political and educational reformer, came to the rescue of the Massachusetts education system at a time when it was suffering from deterioration (Hayes, 2006). Mann served as the secretary of the Board of Education formed in 1837 by the state, a role that he played quite well. His views on education were controversial as they proposed that education should be made available to the public and every child, regardless of their background. Mann recommended common schools, which led to the improvement of the education sector.
John Dewey is famous for his contribution to the progressive education system (Tyler, 1986). In a publication in 1913, Dewey noted that students worked harder and performed better on the topics that were of interest to them than in subjects where they had less interest. This contradicted the belief at the time that more effort was to be placed in less interesting subjects and less in more interesting subjects (Dewey, 2001). Similar results to Dewey’s findings were reported by various other teachers, which led to the interests of the child being taken into consideration when formulating the curriculum (Tyler, 1986).
Various historical events and the contributions of various key individuals have shaped the structure of the American curriculum. For Catherin Beecher, the push for female teachers extended the woman’s role beyond the homestead and created a new supply of teachers. Jefferson fostered free education, Franklin spearheaded the creation of a higher system education, Mann was at the center of common education, while Dewey focused on the interests of the child.
Dewey, J. (2001). Democracy and education. Web.
Hayes, W. (2006). Horace Mann’s vision of the public schools: is it still relevant? Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.
Hoffman, N., & Weiler, K. (n.d.). Schoolhouse Pioneers: Only a teacher. Web.
National Humanities Center. (n.d.) Benjamin Franklin: Proposals relating to the education of youth in Pennsylvania. Web.
Tyler, R. W. (1986). The five most significant curriculum events in the twentieth century. Web.