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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > Family Life 1880-1920 > Education
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Education : A Revolution in Education


Educational reforms initiated decades earlier slowly infiltrated rural areas. School reformer Henry Barnard considered the "great change in school-houses" he witnessed in Massachusetts in the 1830s and '40s little short of "a revolution." Communities built and dedicated model new schools that incorporated the floor and ventilation plans long urged by reformers. Not all students benefited equally from these changes, however. As late as 1844, the Superintendent of the New York common schools reported that of the 9,368 schools county superintendents visited, only five hundred and forty-four had more than one room. Over 7,000 lacked playgrounds; almost 8,000 lacked proper ventilation, and about 6,000 lacked privies.

Methods of instruction as well as architecture changed over the nineteenth century. Normal schools turned out teachers trained in the latest methods. School districts could purchase maps, globes, blackboards and other schoolroom paraphernalia. Although memorization still played an important role in learning, teachers were more inclined to assist scholars and encouraged them to understand what they were reciting. Students were far more likely to be using uniform textbooks and might even be organized into grades.

Most schools held a Recitation Day at the close of the term. Interested townspeople and parents could attend at that time to see scholars show off what they had learned. Such exercises might include orations, demonstrations of spelling, grammar, lightening arithmetic, geographical and historical knowledge, and displays of penmanship. This painting by James Wells Champney depicts a rural school in Deerfield, Massachusetts, on Recitation Day. The detail Champney includes reveals that at least some of the educational reforms of the nineteenth century had made their way even into rural school districts.


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Schoolroom at the Mill and Bars: Recitation Day

artist   James Wells Champney (1843-1903)
date   1877-1887
location   Deerfield, Massachusetts
width   59.62"
height   39.31"
process/materials   oil on canvas
item type   Art/Painting
accession #   #1999.13.506

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See Also...

James Wells Champney (1843-1903)

One Room School in Wapping

Deerfield Grammar School Class

Schoolroom at the Mill and Bars: Recitation Day

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