Video: The Common School (1770-1890)

                 There are many race inequalities in this film.  Free education was not in the constitution so generally only students of wealthy families were educated.  Further, only some towns had schools and most of these schools were not free or public.  There were free and public schools in NY, but nearly all were based in the Protestant beliefs.  The Protestant bible was used and taught in schools.  If children failed to obey authority they would “be damned.”  Children were whipped for misbehaving and threatened with hell as means to discourage disobedience.  The teacher acted as the “ringmaster” and children were like the animals of the circus who needed to be dominated.  Teachers were not nurturing to their students and schools were not a happy place for children.

There were many Irish/Catholic immigrants in NY and they were expected to attend Protestant schools even though the teachers were very anti-Irish/Catholic.  Many children did not attend school because parents refused to send them to Protestant schools.  Eventually, immigrants began demanding their own schools.  This demand was not easily met because Protestants didn’t want any of the Common School funds to go toward any schools that did not support Protestant beliefs.  Irish immigrants faced extreme racism, but eventually a man named Bishop Hughes made it possible for the Irish people to have their own schools based on their religion.  He started the first Catholic schools and they quickly spread nationwide becoming the number one alternative option to Protestant schools.  

                Before slavery was abolished after the Civil War 2/3 of African-Americans lived in the South.  Efforts to educate slaves were met with punishment for both the student and the teacher.  Slaves did not have any rights to education.  After the war African-American children were forced to go to segregated schools.  These schools were very underfunded.  A petition signed by 90 African-Americans in Boston to allow their children to attend white schools resulted in the black schools getting an inspection.   The inspection concluded that the conditions of these schools were terrible, but there was still no response by the government.  Many schools were far apart and it took great determination for students who lived in rural and poor areas to get to school.  Wealthy areas had more schools for wealthy students.  Children were not given equal opportunities. 

                We have learned many things since then and luckily many things have changed in the education system.  We still have a lot we can improve upon and unfortunately race inequalities are still fairly common.  The important thing is that education is now a civil right for everyone.  “Everyone” includes women, people of all races and cultures, and people with disabilities.  No one can be denied the right to a free and public education.  There are still many problems with funding for schools in low SES areas and these same schools often do not have experienced teachers.  Educators and law makers are progressively working to solve these issues, though it will be quite some time before they can actually be resolved.  With the multicultural movement sweeping through schools, and teachers incorporating different teaching methods and styles such as cooperative learning, we will hopefully begin to see a bridging of the education gap.

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Nature vs. Nurture

Nature vs. Nurture

Nova’s video: Secrets of the Wild Child


Genie was a young girl who was severely neglected and abused her whole life until she was rescued at the age of thirteen.  She was not toilet trained and had spent most of her life tied to a potty chair.  Researchers suspected Genie had been beaten for making any noise so she had learned not to vocalize.  She did not know how to speak, nor did she understand any language.  She had grown up without love, without anyone to talk to, and was left alone and tied up most of her life.  Researchers very interested in case because it presented a very rare look at a child who grew up almost completely without nurture.  Genie’s development was understandably abnormal.  Her brain waves had abnormal pattern and researchers unable to determine whether she was born with brain deficiencies or if her life of abuse had caused brain damage.  At first researchers worried that she would not be able to form relationships because she never seemed to express any sign that she cared one way or another when someone came or left.  Eventually she developed an attachment and a relationship with her doctor.  This gave hope that she might be able to recover. 

Genie had some very unusual characteristics.  She had an almost bird-like walk and would spat and scratch at herself often.  These are not typical human characteristics and she may have developed some of them from watching the birds and other animals out of her window.   This child had been deprived of everything nurturing.  Biologically her body had developed normally, but her mind and psychological state was drastically affected by the abuse and neglect she had suffered.  Despite everything that she had been through she still had the pure spirit of a curious and innocent child.  She explored things the way a blind person would.  She would put things up to her face, feel them, and put them to her mouth and touch them with her lips.  Watching her is fascinating and I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a part of her recovery and therapy.

She had an interesting effect on people she came into contact with.  There is an interesting account of a small boy carrying a red fire truck and his father who passed Genie on the street one day.  Genie and the boy did not exchange any words but after they passed each other the boy turned around and gave his truck to Genie.  People seemed to relate to her on a deeper level that went beyond the need for vocal expression.

I found the eagerness she had to learn language and explore the new world around her extremely heartwarming, but heartbreaking as well.  As a mother, I cannot imagine how anyone could put a child through such abuse and utter neglect.  I do not understand why Genie’s mother was allowed to have a second chance with having Genie live with her again.  It is generally thought best for children to live with their parents, but is seems like this type of situation would merit an exception.  The trial stay with her mother was not successful and one can only assume it did nothing to further her mental recovery.  On the contrary, it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t have been detrimental to her.  

Though this case is an extremely rare one, child abuse is a much too common occurrence.  Thankfully this little girl was eventually rescued but she was never able to fully recover.  The experiment ended after she hit a plateau in her learning of language and lawsuits were filed on Genie’s behalf.  A story like this makes us realize how important it is to make sure children are well cared for and to do everything we can to interfere when we know a child is in an abusive situation.

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As American as Public Schools 1900-1950

Movie notes, observations, and responses involving the public education system in the United States during 1900-1950.

As American as Public Schools 1900-1950

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Diversity and The Color Purple

The Color Purple is a story of two sisters torn apart and the many obstacles and trials they go through.  The Color Purple illustrates a life of a child in poverty who endured years of physical and sexual abuse and the incredible circumstances and will power it took for her to get out of that situation.  This book is very powerful and makes it clear why it is so important for teachers to respect and acknowledge diversity in their classroom.  Never assume you know what a student is going through, or what they have been through in the past.  By devoting time, altering the instruction, and keeping track of students’ progress teachers can help students of diverse backgrounds get a head start in life.


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