The Purpose of Schooling a Hundred Years Ago

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, October 9, 1911: Had examinations today. Weren’t as hard as I expected they would be.

Building that once housed McEwensville High School

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

It’s always a good sign when you feel good after an exam. It sounds like Grandma probably learned what her teacher wanted her to know.  Today we worry so much about student performance—and whether they’ve learned what they were supposed to learn.

A hundred years ago people believed that schools had several purposes. According to a 1911 book:

The public school performs one of its greatest functions in developing common knowledge, habits, and ideals in its future citizens, a function that it could not perform if all school teaching and regulation of conduct were individual. A common standard of knowledge, power, and achievement, to which everyone is expected to conform, helps to mould the life of an individual in a normal way and to fix in his mind and character standards by means of which his achievements and ideals may be guided.

The Making of the Individual (1911) by E.A. Kirkpatrick

5 Responses

  1. And in my day, I would obsess ad nauseum over the question(s) that I missed on a test. In fact, never got over that querk.

    • I also obsessed over exam questions. I’m guessing that you were a good student. My friends who were less studious than me never worried about such things.

  2. [...] Two days ago I quoted from a 1911 book about the purpose of education.  Since Grandma didn’t write much today I’ll tell you about an interesting section in the book about the role of education for younger children (pre-school and primary grades). [...]

  3. The schoolhouse still maintains a handsome look today. Hope that lasts!

    • The building was used as a fire hall for a volunteer fire company for many years. They kept it in really good shape. But the fire company disbanded 5 or 10 years ago and the building now sits empty. One time when I was taking photos, someone who lived in a nearby house was mowing the grass. Hopefully they will be able to someday re-purpose the building.

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