The key to the understanding of present problems lies hidden in the recesses of the past. The social structure rests upon the foundations which former generations have erected, and reflects in large measure the strengths and the weaknesses of its underpinning. We can neither shake off nor shrug away our origins, for change occurs not in a vacuum but arises from that which has gone before. Historical investigation is the instrument which unlocks the secrets of the past, offers a means for interpreting the present, and supplies a base upon which the course of rational social action may be predicated.
Another fact emerges from the study of history: It is the interrelatedness of social phenomena. Institutions are not discrete entities. They are molded by the environment which gives them life. In turn, institutions react upon the forces which shape them, to change and to modify them, and to give them new form and meaning. Consequently, education, one of the most vital social institutions--for within it one perceives the converging of all other social forces--must be studied in the context of the entire social fabric. From this point of view the present study was undertaken.
Some excellent research has already been done with respect to the history of education in Pennsylvania. Thomas Woody has made an invaluable contribution to our knowledge of the beginnings of elementary and secondary education in his Early Quaker Education in Pennsylvania (1920). Basing his work on a thorough study of the primary sources, James Mulhern has produced A History of Secondary Education in Pennsylvania (1933), which is clearly the definitive work in the field, covering the period from the founding of the colony to the close of the nineteenth century. Others have made less substantial contributions to Pennsylvania's educational history. James Wickersham , in A History of Education in Pennsylvania (1886), presented materials relating to elementary, secondary, and higher education. However, so broad a canvas did not portray adequately any one phase of the problem. Further, Wickersham's treatment, lacking documentation, gives rise to doubt as to the reliability of his sources. Louise G. and Matthew J. Walsh textbook, the History and Organization of Education in Pennsylvania (1930), drawn chiefly from secondary sources, deals briefly with elementary, secondary, and higher education. Studies of a more authoritative nature, concerned with the contributions of individuals and specific religious groups, have appeared more recently and are acknowledged throughout the text and in the bibliography. When this study was undertaken about eight years ago . . .