Migration and common schooling in urban America: educating newcomers in Boston and Cincinnati, 1820s-1860s

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Teacher Education

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Paedagogica Historica


This article juxtaposes two U.S. cities’ differing educational reactions to mass migrations prior to the Progressive Era. During the nineteenth century, Boston, Massachusetts, developed a model urban education system, one that was visited and replicated throughout the nation. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Boston was a relatively communal city inwhich a small group of elites dominated civic life. As waves of poor, rural New Englanders and, later, Irish immigrants threated the supposed cohesive nature and shared values of the community, Boston’s public school system focused on assimilating the newcomers through moral training. Like Boston, Cincinnati, Ohio, created public schools that were toured and studied, largely because of the city’s renowned German-English program. Unlike Boston, however, the city and the schools were co-developed by migrants. Highly educated German immigrants and settlers from the East developed the public schools together and, unlike the assimilationist schools in Boston, created an educational system that had a relatively pluralistic mission.

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