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Collin Byers

Essay 1: Historical
Fiction

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1 February 2018

How
the Past was Rediscovered

            Sworn to secrecy, I left contemporary society in 2018 CE
to pursue the greatest historical and sociological experiment ever conducted by
mankind. John L. Rury, my dear professor and mentor, charged me one simple
task: travel back in time to the year 1830 to study educational reform. Once my
time-traveling journey concluded, I started a teaching career in a Northeastern
rural town, which experienced industrial and urban growth during my tenure. Until
1860, I taught 19th children, observing a dynamic education system in
the midst of reform. Armed with my copy of Education
and Social Change: Contours in the History of American Schooling by Rury
(2016), I set out on a journey to see the 19th century American
education system for myself. These are my observations.

            In 1830, I began my thirty year journey in a little rural
town called Eagletown, Massachusetts. Being a small and rural town, Eagletown’s
close knit community deeply valued education, similar to many Northern areas at
the time (Rury, 2016). Though difficult to imagine in 2018, teachers were not
required to obtain licensure or formal education in pedagogy (Rury, 2016), and
as such, I experienced no difficulty finding a teaching job. On the first day
of my career in education, I took note of the school environment. From a
structural perspective, schooling typically took place in small schoolhouses
(Rury, 2016). Similar to many contemporary rural towns, Eagletown’s school was
specifically for her residents, most of whom attended on a regular basis (Rury,
2016). However, I did catch wind of distant town wherein residents did not take
the education of their children as seriously as Eagletown’s residents,
showcasing the often inconsistent nature of rural Northern education (Rury,
2016).

            Throughout my first few years as a teacher, I began to
notice the disorganized nature of rural schools in the north. Teachers often
moved from one school to another: it was not uncommon for schools to have new
teachers ever few years (Rury, 2016). Thus, I was something of an anomaly, as I
stayed in Eagletown. Despite the absence of the state standards, I often taught
curricula that aimed at basic reading, arithmetic, and disciplinary skills
(Rury, 2016). Furthermore, most of my contemporaries knew little more than the
basic skills they were teaching (Rury, 2016). As such, many of my students
experience little thought-provoking stimulation, in favor of a curriculum that
generally focused on rote memorization and recitation (Rury, 2016). Typically,
I entered into each school day with the same mindset: impart basic skills into
the future American minds, while working to actively shape productive members
of society (Rury, 2016). I continued in this simplistic, often disorganized,
system of education until later in my educational career.

            Several years into my career as a teacher, I began to
hear about Horace Mann. According to Rury (2016), Mann was an educational
reformer, primarily interested in what came to be known as the common school.
Mann sought to alleviate the issues of disorganization, which I myself was
experiencing, through the creation of common school systems that were systematized
(Rury, 2016). Much of Mann’s ideas required the implementation of many
expensive programs, such as training schools for teachers and a government-run institution
for regulating schools (Rury, 2016). Therefore, citizens who feared the federal
government holding too much power were skeptical of a shift toward the common
school (Rury, 2016); ultimately, America’s resolve to produce morally superior
citizens proved a driving force behind the implementation of the reforms Mann
espoused (Rury, 2016).

            In the late 1830s and early 1840s, I noticed a change in
Eagletown. A resource rich area, eager business tycoons thought our little
Eagletown the perfect location to set up factories. Not surprisingly,
job-hungry employment seekers flocked to Eagletown—a typical occurrence during
the Industrial Revolution (Rury, 2016). Not only did Eagletown’s population
surge during my residency within the community, but the population diversified
(Rury, 2016). Over the course of the industrialization and urbanization of
Eagletown, I adapted to the changing structure of the community.

            As Rury (2016) often espouses, greater society and
educational systems exist in a symbiotic relationship: a change in one often
corresponds to a change in the other. Eagletown was no exception to my
professor’s assertion: urbanization and industrialization required changes for
both myself and my students. For instance, the schoolhouse became a preparation
center for entry into the increasingly industrial society (Rury, 2016). Curricula
maintained the implicit goal of creating upstanding citizens, with particular
emphasis placed on entry into the economy (Rury, 2016). While I would not say
that I began teaching to specific careers or vocations, the way in which I
taught shifted to better address changes in the job market and the overall
societal impact of urban development (Rury, 2016).

           

           

           

           

           

 

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