Creating Common Schools: St. Louis, the American Speculative, and the Rise of Public Education
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Schmidt, Laura Lee
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CitationSchmidt, Laura Lee. 2018. Creating Common Schools: St. Louis, the American Speculative, and the Rise of Public Education. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation appraises the role of public education in modern American life. Tax-supported neighborhood schools called common schools have shaped American culture since they became widespread starting in the 1840s. The private higher educational institutions which emerged after the Civil War in the 1870s, however, are attributed greater cultural influence and are more readily associated with the intellectual public sphere that took shape in postbellum democracy. The work investigates this discrepancy by examining the intellectual contributions of public education: that is, by considering the experience of non-professional intellects schools always set out to serve. One of the most self-aware undertakings in public education occurred in St. Louis, Missouri, around the Civil War, and was led by a group of educators who developed a philosophy concerned with the historical process, which they viewed as central to the work of education.
I use archival sources documenting their activities to tell a story public education built around this philosophical movement in St. Louis. The first chapter places the philosophical culture of St. Louis in the context of a city that condoned slavery but aligned with the Union during civil war. The second chapter tracks the rise of St. Louis education system alongside the rise of a national public education after the war. The third chapter examines the country’s first public kindergartens—built in St. Louis—which emblematized the ideals of schools in which every individual had creative potential. The fourth chapter meditates on the built form of the schools to show how the value of creativity made for a common culture of schooling, a conclusion the chapter links to emancipation in the war.
The dissertation suggests that schools in St. Louis developed a unique intellectual culture built around lower education. As one to extends her view of modern intellectual experience beyond elite universities, public schooling reveals a remarkable transformation in secular American thought stemming from the Civil War.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41129187
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