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Getting to Scale With Moral Education: The Demands of Reproducibility and the Case of the Chicago Manual Training School, 1884–1904


by Jane McCamant — 2018

Background: Getting educational reforms “to scale” continues to be a primary preoccupation of scholars, but such studies tend to remain focused on the organizational or other characteristics of the school(s) receiving a given innovation.

Purpose: This article brackets the organizational elements of reform dissemination to consider the relationship between the ideational content of educational innovations and their success at being “scaled up.” It considers whether particular categories of educational outcomes are inherently less well suited to widespread reproduction.

Research Design: The article identifies a historical case of an educational reform effort that failed to be brought to scale as a method of considering these larger theoretical questions. First articulated in the early 1880s, the educational philosophy of manual training called for the incorporation of industrial training––in the form of tool work, metal shop, and technical drawing––into a rigorous and traditional academic curriculum. This combination of shop work and school work was intended to function holistically, developing the manual, intellectual, and moral capacities of the student simultaneously. Opened in 1884, the Chicago Manual Training School (CMTS) was intended to be an example of the implementation of this philosophy to be emulated by Chicago’s public secondary schools. Such emulation never occurred. The case study portion of this article is based on in-depth historical analysis of the records of the CMTS, the papers of its founder, Henry Holmes Belfield, and other contemporaneous materials relating to the manual training movement and the context of late-19th-century education reform efforts.

Conclusions: The case of the CMTS suggests two necessary (but not sufficient) criteria for a given educational philosophy to be susceptible to reproduction: intelligibility and measurability. These two requirements are found to be particularly unlikely in educational innovations that emphasize the subtle and intangible connections of mind, body, and spirit or that seek primarily to teach character or disposition—here termed “moral education.”



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 7, 2018, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22170, Date Accessed: 12/13/2017 6:22:01 AM

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About the Author
  • Jane McCamant
    University of Chicago
    E-mail Author
    JANE MCCAMANT is a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Chicago. Her research is on the history of moral and religious education in the United States.
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