Beliefs a Hundred Years Ago About High Quality Education for Young Children

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

Wednesday, October 11, 1911: Don’t know what to write. Got my report today. Was better than what I expected.

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

Yeah! Even though it’s silly to be happy about an event that occurred a hundred years ago, I’m glad that Grandma did well on her exams.

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).

In 1911 there was a lot of interest in kindergartens. Many believed that young children needed an enriching environment and that children should develop at a pace they set for themselves. There was a huge amount of interest in the ideas of Madame Maria Montessori. She believed that children spontaneously educated themselves based upon their experiences and environment.

Madame Maria Montessori (Source: Wikipedia)

Today much of the policy discussion for young children revolves around whether there should be universal pre-schooling and how to standardize educational experiences for children in grades k-2. The focus is on teaching children reading skills.  This is very different from what people believed about early education a hundred years ago:

There is good reason, however for believing that early childhood freedom is more important to good mental development than to good physical development. The mind of the child may be more injured by “thorough” mental training of any particular kind, than the body by any special form of physical training. . .

Children not only develop the power to perceive remember, imagine, reason, etc. without any special assistance, but they acquire knowledge without special teaching.

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

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