Looking Back While Moving Forward

This time of year Christians celebrate the birth of the savior of the world, Jesus.   Many African Americans celebrate their heritage during Kwanzaa.  Jews celebrate the re-dedication of the Holy Temple during Hanukkah.  Let’s take some time to celebrate milestones in education:

1635- Boston Public Schools were founded.  Curriculum was provided for boys the age of 8-15.  What about the girls?  They were at home: baking, sewing, and cleaning.

1636-  First University in the United State was founded, Harvard University.  And we think Harvard is competitive now?  Most Americans probably couldn’t even read or properly fill out the application with our lack of structured schools at the time.

1742- Bethlehem Female Seminary was the first founded college for women (later became Co-Ed).  Finally a place just for the ladies!

1795-  First Public University in the United States…The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill! (My alma mater!)   We’re starting to slowly but surely level the playing field for higher education by providing public, not just private, universities.

1796- Horrace Mann, “Father of the Common School Movement” was born.  He advocated for common public schools for all people.  This guy was one of the first to understand the power of education and the impact it had on the country as a whole.

1862- Morrill Land Grant Act- signed by President Lincoln creating over 70 agricultural and technical colleges. This act was extended in 1890 to ensure that admission to these schools was not based upon race.   This Act led to the development of many of our historically black colleges and universities today.  One of the many reasons why President Lincoln deserves to have his face on shiny pennies.

1900-  Formation of the College Board to standardize college admissions.  This lead to the creation of our favorite standardized test (a couple decades later), the SAT!

1944- GI Bill was signed by President Roosevelt after World War II.  The US paid for college tuition for soldiers.  This exponentially increased the number of Americans able to attend and afford college.  Thanks for your service, soldiers!  You deserve the gift of an educated mind!

1954-  Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court Case.  Forced integration of all schools for all children regardless of skin color.  Look how far we have come in the last 50 years!

1964- Civil Rights Act was signed by President Johnson (previously called for by JFK).  Goodbye segregated schools!  Hello diversified classrooms!

1965- The Elementary and Secondary Education Act also signed by President Johnson.  This Act brought equity to education by establishing new methods for funding schools among many other things.  This act was created to fight the “War on Poverty.”  This is one tough battle; we’re still fighting that war in the education world today!

1972-  Title 9 signed by President Nixon.  No gender discrimination allowed anymore.  Girls can now expand their career options beyond nurses and secretaries.  I’d say this legislature was a success…in 1994, women earned 43% of law degrees, compared with 7% in 1972.

1999- First fully Online University in the US…Jones International University was accredited.   This is just the start of how the internet has and continues to transform education!

2002- No Child Left Behind Act signed by President Bush.   This Act demands that every student reach a certain test score.  Thanks for bringing further attention to the inequalities among different demographics in education, Mr. President.

2011-  President Obama has started several progressive programs, like “Race to the Top” and “Educate to Innovate” to further jump start solutions to educational issues.  Common core standards will be in place for all 50 states to implement at the school level.  President Obama’s overall goal is to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.  Let’s help our current administration make this goal a reality!

What will it take to fully save or “redeem” the American education system?   As you can see, it has taken several acts, reformists, politicians, and brilliant minds to bring us from log cabins with slate boards to technologically advanced, equitable classrooms.  Let’s celebrate our past successes and use them as fuel to fire us forward.

By Erin Burns

Erin Burns is a North Carolina Teaching Fellow who teaches Biology at North Mecklenburg High School.  Erin graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Biology and minors in Education and Entrepreneurship.  A recent addition to the team, Erin looks to channel her creativity and passion for education-reform through the SKoolAide initiative.  Find her on LinkedIn, email her at erin@skoolaide.com, or follow @eburnsye on Twitter

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: