The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Educational Associations

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Edition of 1920. See also National Education Association on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATIONS. The beginnings of educational associations in the United States antedated the public school system. Long before the organization of State school systems and before the days of the railroad when travel was of necessity by stagecoach, the great need of conference and exchange of thought was slowly being realized and in several States, particularly in New England and New York, county or other local gatherings of teachers and those interested in education were organized.

Of the educational associations in the United States having a national character, the American Institute of Instruction is probably the earliest. This association was organ tied in August 1830. The first meeting was held in the State House, Boston, Mass., and President Francis Wayland of Brown was the presiding officer: The first seven meetings were held in Boston. They were marked by the presence of great leaders and educational statesmen rather than of those actually engaged in classroom teaching. Horace Mann, who was then a member of the Massachusetts legislature, attended the first meeting at Boston and became greatly interested in the discussions. The program attracted his attention and active support. As a result he turned from the law and from legislative halls and became one of our greatest educational leaders. Among those in frequent attendance on the early meetings were Horace Mann, Thomas H. Gallaudet, Henry Barnard, Samuel G. Howe, Asa Gray, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Theodore Parker, Charles Sumner, David P. Page, Edward Everett and many others whose names are equally familiar. The first few years these meetings in Boston were epochmaking, but discordant elements brought about a change in plans and for the next seven years the annual meetings were held in various New England cities. Through the influence of Horace Mann Massachusetts made an annual appropriation, at first $300 and later $500 for the expenses of the meetings. This was discontinue* in 1874. With the rise of the State associations in 1845 the interest in the organization declined. It was desired to make the new State organizations more representative and popular but the dynamic influence of the great leaders who had been active in the meetings of the institute was continued through the efforts of Rhode Island leaders. It was commercialized through the excursion idea which was made a feature of the meetings, and thus was enabled to continue from year to year, but unusual expenses and a very limited income from the membership proved a serious embarrassment. More recently, however, the membership has increased and the expenses have been reduced so that the period since 1900 has been more encouraging than at any time since the great leadership of its early days. The contributions of the American Institute of Instruction through the educational statesmen who were in attendance at the early meetings were beyond measure in developing public thought toward a rational educational program. In comparison with the larger State and national meetings the annual meetings of the institute have been small. It has seldom exceeded 2,000 members in enrolment. Although its history has been largely associated with New England, yet its membership has been drawn in part from many other States.

The Western Literary Institute and College of Professional Teachers which was organized in 1831 drew its membership largely from the four States — Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Of the 15 annual meetings, 12 were held in Cincinnati, and 3 in Louisville. This association was very active and was supported by the strongest teachers in this section of the country. The spirit and thought of the meetings were progressive. The remarkable development of the new country reacted on the educational thought. There was a freedom from conservatism and women were permitted to take active part in the deliberations. The association continued until 1845 and exerted a wide inflneace on the schools.

The American Lyceum Association held its first national convention in New York city in 1831. It continued for nine years, when the last meeting was held in Philadelphia. The association was interested in general educational problems but more particularly in advancing improved methods, in creating an interest in the study of the natural sciences, in providing the schools with books and apparatus, and in emphasizing the importance of the education of women. Among the papers discussed on the programs were “Manual-Training Schools,” “The Education of the Blind,” “Vocal Music,” “Eye Training,” “Education of the Deaf,” “Geology,” “Female Education,” “The Embellishment and Improvement of Towns.” The programs were prophetic in character. The association created a wide interest in libraries and “lyceums.”

The American Association for the Advancement of Education was organized as the result of a meeting of the “National Association of the Friends of Education” which held its first meeting at Philadelphia in October 1849. The conference was presided over by Horace Mann, then a member ot Congress from Massachusetts. The purpose was to discuss the administration of public education in its relation to the needs in different sections of the country. The second meeting, also held in Philadelphia, convened in August 1850, under the presidency of Eliphalet Nott, president of Union College. At this meeting a new constitution was adopted, and the organization became the American Association for the Advancement of Education. The eighth, and probably the last, meeting of the association was held at Detroit in August 1856 under the presidency of Chancellor H. P. Tappen of the University of Michigan. The various meetings of the association were marked by the attendance of superintendents, supervising officers and college presidents. The representation from the actual teaching staff was probably small. A close relation is observed between the American Association for the Advancement of Education and the new State school systems which were being organized at that time.

The National Teachers' Association, organized in Philadelphia in 1857, absorbed the American Association for the Advancement of Education. The purpose of the new association was to include in one organization “all the teachers of our whole country.” The original “call” was made “to all practical teachers in the North, the South, the East, the West” and was signed by the presidents of 10 of the State associations. It was to be an organization of the rank and file of the teaching profession, to bring together into one unit the common thought of the practical teachers in the schools, and through the national association to bind all the State associations together into one structure. The spirit of the new organization was in every sense in harmony with the efforts of the earlier associations both State and national. It conceived the need of a national conference representing the popular teaching body. A pregnant phrase in an address by William Russell at the first meeting at Philadelphia — “harmonious co-operation of educational skill with scientific progress and parental interests” — indicates the breadth of view of these early leaders. Two conditions made this the psychological time for the organization of the National Teachers' Association: the growing strength of the several State associations, and the liberal legislation by which systems of public education had been established in several States. Moreover, the rapid economic development of the country through the application of scientific discovery and invention to the everyday life of the people, such as the marvelous extension of steam railroads and telegraph lines as well as the use of industrial machinery for the farm and home, made possible a real national conference and furnished a greater opportunity for the interpretation of the common thought. The strength in the association was in its appeal to popular membership. Its weakness was due to lack of educational leadership and statesmanship. The great impending national crisis overshadowed the activities of the embryo organization. There was, therefore, lack of popular interest and no conventions were held in 1861, 1862 and 1867. In 1866 an important change was made in the constitution whereby women were admitted to full membership on the same terms as men, and in 1869 two women were elected on the executive board of 35.

At the meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, in August 1870, D. B. Hagar of Massachusetts, who drew up the call for the convention of teachers in Philadelphia in 1857, was president of the association. In his opening address he outlined certain changes in the organization as a result of which a new constitution was adopted and the following departments were created: normal schools, school superintendence, elementary education, and higher education. By this action the American Normal School Association and the National Association of School Superintendents became, under the new constitution, departments of the National Education Association. From time to time other departments have been added until there are now 21. The breadth of activity is indicated by the names of some of the departments more recently organized: vocational education and practical arts, rural and agricultural, child hygiene, physical, school administration, library, special, promotion of wider use of schoolhouses. The growth, however, was slow. The registered membership at the Cleveland meeting in 1870 was only 170, and for several years the attendance continued small. The funds were frequently insufficient to print the proceedings. In 1884 an unusually successful meeting was held in Madison, Wis., with an enrolment of 2,729. This marked the beginning of a new era for the association. From that time it has properly been regarded as a leader in national educational matters. In 1886 the association was incorporated for 20 years. The following year at the Chicago meeting the membership totaled 11,297; at Los Angeles in 1899, 13,656; and at Boston in 1903, 34,953. In 1906 an act was passed by Congress incorporating the National Education Association. A permanent fund founded in 1884 has grown to nearly $200,000.

At the Philadelphia meeting in 1891, Dr. W. T. Harris, United States Commissioner of Education, presented a noteworthy paper on the organization and functions of the association, in which he reviewed its purpose, to “concentrate the wisdom and power of numerous minds, and distribute among all the experiences of all,” outlined its progress and growth from a few hundred to as many thousand, mentioned the great “advantage of personal contact of mind with mind,” and pointed out the salutary influence of the departments provided for the needed specialization of work with the suggestion that others should be added.

Since 1893 there has been a permanent paid secretary who gives his entire time to the service of the association, and since 1917 the secretary's office and the headquarters of the association have been located at Washington, D. C. It has always been the policy of the organization to support broad national policies. To formulate a program of education during and after the war, the association designated a Commission on the Emergency in Education. This commission contemplates no less a program than a national department of education, with a secretary who shall sit in the President's cabinet, and the transfer of all bureaus or agencies relating to educational affairs to the new department.

There have been organized in recent years several societies interested in the scientific study of education. The National Herbertian Society for the Scientific Study of Teaching was organized in 1895, and in 1902 it was reorganized and the title changed to the National Society for the Scientific Study of Education. The National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education, organized in 1906, has also made large contribution to educational thought and progress.

Local teachers' associations had become general before the organization of the National Teachers' Association in 1857, A teachers' association was organized in New York city as early as 1798. An association of teachers known as the School Association of Middlesex County was formed at Middletown, Conn., in 1799. The earliest record of a State gathering of teachers is that a "State Convention of Teachers and Friends of Education" was held at Utica, N. Y., in January 1831. It was not until 1845, however, that there was a formal organization. Actively interested in the work of the State associations were many educational leaders. These men gave strength to the organizations, and every effort was made to secure a large attendance on the part of practical teachers. In Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York State associations were organized in 1845. The Ohio association was organized in 1847; Connecticut, in 1848; Vermont, in 1850; Michigan and Pennsylvania, in 1852; Wisconsin, Illinois and New Jersey, in 1853; Iowa, New Hampshire and Indiana, in 1854; Missouri, in 1856. The meetings of some of the State associations soon became large and enthusiastic. Dr. Hagar of the State Normal School at Salem, Mass., stated that the attendance at the meetings of their association in the late 60's was from 2,500 to 3,500. He attributed this interest to the reorganization of the meetings into special sections. There is now a State teachers' association in every State except Delaware. The meetings are usually held annually. In the larger organizations the program generall covers several days. At the general sessions the topics are of broad interest, while the sectional meetings are given over to the discussion of special activities. In New York the State association is very strongly organized. Every effort is made to enroll a large membership. The cities, villages and the supervisory districts are the separate units of the State organization and are represented by delegates who control the policies of the State organization. Previous to the reorganization of the New York State Teachers' Association in 1913, the meetinps were largely representative of the locality where the annual meeting happened to be held. The renewed interest and enlarged activities of the new organization have fully justified the change made in 1913. The association is now representative of the entire State and every supervisory unit, city village or rural community, has a representative voice in its annual meeting.

In some States the interest in the State association is much greater than in others. This is indicated in part by attendance and membership, which varies from nearly zero to 90 per cent of the teaching body of the State. Most of the associations are growing much stronger and teachers are becoming alive to the opportunities of an active professional organization. The economic conditions are rapidly becoming better for the teacher in those States in which the association is supported by a loyal membership. The indifference so often found is due in part at least to the short professional life of the teacher.

In general there are two types of teachers' voluntary associations: (a) the general associations which aim to promote all the interests of teachers, such as the National Education Association and the State teachers' associations, and (b) specialized assodations which are limited to some special subject or to some particular activity of school work, such as kindergarten, industrial training, English, music, agriculture, domestic arts, science, health and hygiene, playgrounds, or others.

The early associations were largely cultural. They were not subdivided into sections, in fact, the attendance was so small that this was not possible, even if it had been considered. In recent years the national and State associations have differentiated their work until the sections have become highly specialized. Women play a much more prominent part than formerly. In 1911 the National Education Association had its first woman president. It was an incident worthy of mention that in the same year the National Union of Teachers of England and Wales had a woman presiding officer for the first time. Little thought was given at first to the economic and material needs of the teacher. In the State assodations there is a great interest in educational legislation and also in the raising of professional standards. The teachers' assodations in some of the larger cities are largely concerned with the economic betterment of their membership and related legislation.

Teachers' voluntary associations, both general and special, have made a large contribution to educational progress. To the teachers these associations mean renewed enthusiasm, professional growth and material improvement. To the State they are often the “greatest single educational factor.” Active teachers' associations are essential to progressive educational policies.

In England a much larger percentage of teachers is represented in the associations than in America. The National Union of Teachers, which was organized in 1870, has a membership of over 70,000 teachers. More attention is given to economic conditions and material needs. It has actively supported candidates for Parliament and for a time its secretary was a member of Parliament. The membership was originally limited to teachers in elementary schools, but more recently the Union has been open to other teachers.

The Headmasters' Conference, organized in 1869, and the Association of Headmasters, organized in 1890, give special attention to questions relating to school management and professional matters. The Assistant Masters' Association is an organization of secondary school teachers and is interested in part in the economic betterment of its membership.

The largest general assodation in Scotland is the Educational Institute of Scotland. The Scottish Class Teachers' Association also has a large enrolment. The Association of Headmasters of Secondary Schools and the Secondary Education Assodation of Scotland are organized in the interests of teachers in the secondary schools.

There are various types of educational associations in France. Many of them illustrate the power in co-operation hetween teachers and others interested in educational problems. The League of Doctors and Families organized in 1902 for the improvement of scientific methods and hygienic conditions in the school includes in its membership teachers, parents, physicians and others. The Society for the Psychological Study of the Child, which was organized for the study of child psychology and general educational methods, indudes not only teachers but scientists and others interested in a theoretical as well as practical study of educational questions. The work of these associations has brought about the organization of international congresses for the scientific study of educational questions. Associations of teachers and instructors in France have a wide influence. The discussions as to instruction, curriculum and discipline brought out in the meetings are published in their bulletins and principals are quite free as to the adoption of new methods in their schools.

The largest organization of its kind in Germany is the German Teachers' Association formed in 1871. Over 90 per cent of the teachers in the elementary schools are members of the association. It is highly organized throughout the country, including local associations of a general character and sections for teachers in special subjects. The chief interest is the professional and economic betterment of teachers. Its strength is in the centralized organization. There is also an association of secondary school teachers, the aim of which is to improve the conditions of teachers in schools of secondary grade. Associations which enlist the interests of the public-spirited citizen as well as the teacher and which aim to promote general educational activities are not found.

Bibliography. — Foos, C. S., ‘State Educational Associations’ (United States Com. of Ed. Report 1909); Kandel, I. L., ‘Teachers' Voluntary Associations’ (in ‘Cyclopedia of Education’); Monroe, Will S., ‘Educational Associations’ (N. E. A. Fiftieth Anniversary Volume, 1905); Winship, Albert E., ‘The American Institute of Instruction’ (N. E. A. Anniversary Volume, 1905).

George M. Wiley,
Director, Division of Examinations and Inspections, State Education Department, Albany, N. Y.