In 1959 Shirley turned 6 years old. Her excitement grew as fall approached because she would be going to school for the first time. What she didn’t understand was that 1959 was to be different. The US Federal Court had ordered Prince Edward County, Virginia, where Shirley lived, to desegregate its schools. And the county school board, rather than integrate their system as ordered, closed all the public schools.

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John Dewey was the most significant educational thinker of his era and, many would argue, of the 20th century. As a philosopher, social reformer and educator, he changed fundamental approaches to teaching and learning. His ideas about education sprang from a philosophy of pragmatism and were central to the Progressive Movement in schooling.

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For the next twelve years he learned reading, writing and math skills while performing various farming duties. He was able to save enough (probably with some assistance from the farmer for whom he labored) to enroll in Randolph’s Orange County Grammar School in 1815 at the age of 20. During the next six years (1815-1821) he completed not only the secondary school courses but also the first two years of a college level curriculum. Following his graduation from Randolph he was accepted at Middlebury College, entering as a junior in August of 1821. Two years later he received his bachelor’s degree. Middlebury College claims him to be the first African-American to earn a baccalaureate degree from an American college or university.

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In 1881, Kate married (Samuel) Bradley Wiggin, a San Francisco lawyer.‪ According to the customs of the time, she was required to resign her teaching job.‪ Still devoted to her school, she began to raise money for it through writing, first The Story of Patsy (1883), then The Birds’ Christmas Carol (1887). Both privately printed books were issued commercially by Houghton Mifflin in 1889, with enormous success. Ironically, considering her intense love of children, Kate Wiggin had none. She moved to New York City in 1888.‪

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Froebel’s idea – the kindergarten idea – of the child and its powers, of humanity and its destiny, of the universe, of the whole problem of living, is somewhat different from that held by the vast majority of parents and teachers. It is imperfectly carried out, even in the kindergarten itself, where a conscious effort is made, and is scarcely ever attempted in the school.

His plan of education covers the entire period between the nursery and the university, and contains certain essential features which bear close relation to the gravest problems of the day. If they could be made an integral part of all our teaching in families, schools, and institutions, the burdens under which society is groaning to-day would fall more and more lightly on each succeeding generation. These essential features have often been enumerated. I am no fortunate herald of new truth. I may not even put the old wine in new bottles; but iteration is next to inspiration, and I shall give you the result of eleven years’ experience among the children and homes of the poorer classes.

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A recognition of the necessity for kindergarten culture, and its speedy adoption by all the States of the Union as a part of the public school system, is a most important and urgent necessity, and would prove of great benefit to the coming generations. It has been delayed, perhaps, not so much from a lack of appreciation of its beneficial results, as from the fact that the masses have not as yet been able to comprehend its educational value. They have looked upon it as a work of charity, and have been unable to grasp the fact that instruction and play can and must go hand in hand.

The Kindergarten takes hold of the child at the most important epoch of life,- the formative period. Impressions precede expressions, and we should be most careful that the child receive none but the best impressions, especially when we consider that these will be lasting and affect his whole after life.

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The whole design of the Kindergarten system is to rear virtuous, self-governing, law-abiding citizens. The Kindergarten system, if faithfully followed, would prevent criminals. And what estimate shall be placed upon an instrumentality which saves the child from becoming a criminal, and thus not only saves the state from the care and expense incident to such reform, but also secures to the state all that which the life of a good citizen brings into it?

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To the question, “Do you notice any beneficial effects of the kindergarten upon the children’s homes?” the testimony is enthusiastically in the affirmative from all who speak from close and personal observation. As upon the children, so through them, upon the homes, the improvement in cleanliness, tidiness, order, is marked; speech and manners grow gentle, the house becomes an attractive home. “Many mothers have assured the teachers that, through the effect of the kindergarten upon their children, their own thoughts and actions have been influenced. They have learned to realize the duty of being ‘good mothers.’ Fathers have noticed their boys’ interest in the shop-work, and have become more interested in intelligent observation of their own work. The family life has grown more happy.”

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“…it must be an axiomatic proposition that the State should educate all its dependent children. It is not charity: it is simply providing for those of its own household, as when it furnishes schools for the well-endowed. I can see no reason why the means for such education should not be appropriated from the general school fund, without lobbying or begging. The question, then, is, In what respects must this provision for the feeble-minded differ from that given to others?”

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Farmville Protests of 1963

On November 14, 2014 By

In Virginia, the state government was staunch in its refusal to allow school integration. Initiated by Senator Harry F. Byrd, the policy of Massive Resistance took hold strongly, and the state fought tooth and nail against school integration. By 1958, all of the laws Massive Resistance advocates had used to keep schools segregated were struck down as unconstitutional by Virginia courts, and to circumvent the courts, several public school systems closed entirely in 1959 rather than integrate….But in Prince Edward County and its county seat of Farmville, public schools remained closed until 1964, when the U.S. Supreme Court found that the county was violating the Equal Protection Clause by keeping schools closed.

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