Monday, September 23, 2013

Different Visions of Education Before and After Compulsory Schooling Laws

In “Formalism Over Function: Compulsion, Courts, andthe Rise of Educational Formalism in America, 1870-1930”, Ethan L. Hutt suggests that the compulsory schooling laws adopted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States transformed the way judges in state courts thought about education.  Prior to the full implementation of these laws the emphasis in judicial decisions was on what children learned and education was treated as being synonymous with learning. The full implementation of the laws, however, coincided with an extraordinary narrowing of the conception of what counted for education – basically, limiting it to a formalistic idea that only what happens in a certain location – a school, which could provide certainty and order - could be education. If this is true and given the great importance of legal thought in American life, is it likely that this change was limited to judges?

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