The American Teacher: Evolution of a Profession in a Democracy

The American Teacher: Evolution of a Profession in a Democracy

The American Teacher: Evolution of a Profession in a Democracy

The American Teacher: Evolution of a Profession in a Democracy

Excerpt

The teaching profession in America is what it is today because of forces and circumstances which have been molding it since the establishment of the first school on the New England coast. The practices and procedures inaugurated by the early pioneers in selecting, compensating, and supervising teachers established patterns and set precedents for many of the personnel policies which are now in vogue. Similarly, the attitude of the public toward teachers and teaching, as expressed in colonial laws, local rules and instructions, the minutes of town meetings, and also in local customs, played a significant part in developing traditions which have been both useful and detrimental to public education.

The teaching personnel of the American colonies was not organized into a national society. It published no annual reports of activities. There were no state department records containing detailed information about individual schoolmasters. In fact, in making a study of the colonial schoolteacher the immediate and most striking feature of the entire problem is the distressingly fragmentary character of the source material. Farmers and traders battling the wilderness in a strange new land were naturally more concerned with felling trees, planting crops, building homes, and warding off Indian attacks than with making accurate transcripts of their everyday affairs. Musket, ax, and plow were readier to their hand than pen and paper. Recordmaking depended upon a favorable combination of circumstances: time, opportunity and materials, the none too common ability to write, and an incentive.

Yet the colonial era was by no means unchronicled. Births, marriages, and deaths were recorded from the beginning, but more often than not individually in family Bibles. Land grants, deeds and wills, baptisms, and other church matters were kept officially, and in New England there were town records and selectmen's minutes. The wonder is not that so little was written down, but rather that so much was recorded.

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