Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

J. William Harris


Our American forefathers, with the exception of Thomas Jefferson, had no ideal of a system of universal education. His plans were throttled by slavery, but the doctrine of universal education lived. Then at a time when the whole system of common schools was in danger of failure Horace Mann gave his life to the promotion of the interests of the Common school.

In 1837, the very year Horace Mann gave up his prospect of a famous political career to become Secretary of the State Board of Education in Massachusetts, Francis Wayland Parker was born in New Hampshire, and was destined to play an important part in this movement for the welfare of the common school. He began his teaching career at the age of sixteen. In his work he made a practical application of the truism of Comenius, 'We Learn To Do By Doing,' by supplying conditions which were favorable to efficient and rational doing. Spurred on by his deep conviction that there must be a science of education with which he was not familiar, he spent several years studying in Germany.

With his conviction strengthened, he returned to America to continue his work or reform in the elementary schools of, America. He pictured the school as a community and the teacher as an organizer of community life and creator of public opinion. Like Horace Mann, he instigated and promoted a great movement to free teachers as well as children. Prior to this time teachers had received appointments mainly through political influence, regardless of their lack of qualifications. Through Colonel Parker's efforts, it became necessary to appoint teachers who were equipped the guide the pupils along the path of freedom which develops self-control.1 Colonel Parker refused to accept a creed handed down from the past and so refused to impose a creed upon his followers. Thus he left no published works which do justice to his educational theory and practice.

It is my purpose to show the relationship of his work to the Progressive School Movement, and the background provided by his reforms for Dr. John Dewey's contribution to the elementary school.





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