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ERIC Number: EJ1080284
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 10
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0311-2543
An International Brotherhood of Whigs: Nineteenth Century School Reformers in the United States and Prussia
Herbst, Jurgen
Education Research and Perspectives, v31 n2 p1-10 2004
That the example of Prussia has played a crucial role in the development of public schools in the United States has long been commonplace among historians of education. There have been many writings reporting on visits to Prussian schools and whose accounts, like the "1834 Report on the State of Public Instruction in Prussia" by the Frenchman Victor Cousin, were eagerly discussed in the United States. It is quite apparent that American school reformers regarded the Prussian system as exemplary. They were most impressed by the thoroughness with which Prussian administrators supervised the training of teachers and the performance of individual schools. State direction and supervision of public schooling, it seemed to many Americans, was a Prussian specialty that might profitably be introduced into the United States. Both the American school reformers and the Prussian school administrators belonged to an international brotherhood of Whigs, men who firmly believed in the inevitability of progress a nation could attain if its people were well schooled and guided by men of superior knowledge, warm hearts, and refined tastes." This article presents a discussion of similarities and differences between the educational systems of Prussia and the United States. In both countries the process of establishing and strengthening a public school system had gained momentum, though in rural areas the one-room elementary school was still the dominant educational institution. In the cities of both countries a variety of post-elementary schools had come into being, schools that responded to demands for vocational and business training as well as for college and university preparation. But there were differences as well. No state school administration in the United States approximated in any form the strict and repressive supervision exercised by the Prussian authorities. Though religious influence was apparent in many American schools, members of locally elected school boards, not ex officio clergymen, supervised teachers. If some of them were priests or pastors, they fulfilled their supervisory function as board members, not in their capacity as clerics. The German teachers applauded the separation of state and church and the fact that school curricula, particularly in the natural sciences, bore a closer direct relation to the demands of everyday life than had been true of the classical studies in Germany. To the German teachers, local control, and the freedom it permitted taxpayers to direct their schools and the choices it allowed parents to make for their children's schooling was, beyond question, the most outstanding, and also the most troublesome, characteristic of American schools. The absence of repressive state government direction of their professional lives and the absence of clerical control over their daily activities embodied to them the essence of American freedom, but local control, exercised by their neighbors, precludes state concentration of school organization, administration, and supervision, and this causes progress to be slow and troublesome. The author wonders then if the German teachers had exchanged one evil for another.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Education; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A