In honor of Women’s Equality Day, I’d like to share an excerpt of my work on the origins of history in the schools. This comes from a larger chapter on teacher training and illustrates how the majority of teachers in the early days of the field were trained by women, whether at female teaching seminaries or increasingly in the state normal colleges. This piece focuses on the role of Julia Anne King at Michigan State Normal School (now Eastern Michigan University), and illustrates how progressive Christian women were the real driving force behind how history was conceived and taught in the schools.
We’ll pick up the story with this chart on the history faculty at MSNS in the second half of the nineteenth century (which is the origin point for the professional of teaching history in the schools).
(Footnotes have been omitted to protect my unpublished research, but I am happy to share them with any interested scholar)
Figure 7: Michigan State Normal College History Department Faculty, 1852-1899
- Rose Barton (1883-1884)
- Bertha Buell (1899- )
- Anna Cutcheon (1872-1879)
- Chloe Daniels (1894-1896)
- Ruth Hoppin (1867-1881)
- Julia Anne King (1881- )
- Eliza Kimball (1897)
- Lydia Kniss (1886-1888)
- Ellen Murphy (1885-1886)
- Mary Putnam (1892- )
- Georgia Robinson (1896-1898)
- Nellie Sterling (1889-1892)
- Annah May Soule (1889-1892)
- Florence Shultes (1892- )
- Ira Thorpe (1896-1897)
- Edith Todd (1898- )
- Elizabeth Yost (1898- )
Prior to the twentieth century, most of the history department instructors were only at MSNS for a short term. In fact, twelve of the seventeen history faculty members served from one to four years from 1852 to 1899. The five women who constituted the long-term core faculty of the department during these early years of history education at MSNS— Anna Cutcheon, Ruth Hoppin, Mary Putnam, Florence Shultes, and Julia Anne King— would shape the course of history teacher training from 1867 to 1915.
Of these five faculty members, none had a greater impact on the development of history teacher training than Julia Anne King. A Michigan State Normal School graduate herself, King returned to Ypsilanti in 1881 after a relatively brief but distinguished career as a teacher, principal, and superintendent in various Michigan school districts. King wore several hats at MSNS; for instance, she served as Preceptress of the school until the abolition of the position and for decades King led weekly moral discussions open to students and community members. Though her general leadership and guidance for both the institution and the young women of the school was remarkable, King’s position as the chair of the history department from 1881 to 1915 at one of the nation’s largest teacher training schools deserves greater attention. King’s work at MSNS reveals how the moral, religious, and intellectual undercurrents that had helped transform teaching into a profession in the nineteenth century influenced the origins of history education in the United States.
Julia King’s identity as a Christian woman greatly influenced the way she taught history. Through King’s role in defining and developing history education for the Midwest’s first and leading normal school along with her professional connections and associations, it is possible to reconstruct the wide-ranging impact her identity and approach to teaching had on the way history was taught in Michigan and across the nation. Like Lucy Maynard Salmon of Vassar (editor’s note: another chapter of this work is devoted to Lucy Maynard Salmon’s remarkable career and influence on history both as an academic discipline and the long-standing shape of history curriculum in the schools), King’s identity, intellectual training, and historical interests led her to adopt methodological approaches that presaged movements like the “New History,” “Progressive” education, and social history that left a distinctly nineteenth-century female imprint on history education in the US. In explaining King’s moral, philosophic, and pedagogic approaches to teaching history, this passage will focus on her identity as a Christian woman, her contributions to the emerging professional discourse surrounding history education, the curriculum she oversaw at MSNS, and her application of pedagogy in the classroom.
King’s Vision of Christianity and Morality in Education
God seldom repeats Himself, yet is always repeating. The variety of His works is equaled only by His power, yet it is a variety controlled by unchanging principles. In the plant world, every flower has its own feature and expression, every tree its characteristics which constitute its self. Among the many breathing things, the variety is still more apparent. Every little fly and buzzing creature has its way of expressing its own peculiar I. In the realm of the mind, the same truth is no less evident. The thinking, willing, feeling human minds are no less diverse than the bodies which enshrine them. Extravagant diversity!
As was the case with many of the nineteenth century women involved with the teaching profession, Julia King viewed her vocation as a sacred duty. Like Catherine Beecher and many other female educators before her, King felt that Christian teachers had a religious obligation to provide a sound moral and intellectual training for students. This did not simply mean prosthelytizing or pandering to religious sentiments. Instead, it was a call for applying the principles of Christianity to citizenship training—instilling a belief in the value of hard work, an appreciation for the variety of life, and cultivating the vast resources of the human mind. Often King employed Christian metaphors and analogies to call for change in educational approaches. For instance, King opened her 1869 article in a state education magazine, the Michigan Teacher, with the quotation that precedes this section, explaining how the duality and diversity in her Christian worldview paralleled those in the human mind. In this call to arms, King implores her fellow teachers to cater to the “extravagant diversity” of their students’ minds, reminding them that their interests, capabilities, and learning styles are as different as each child’s physical appearance. For King, and other like minded progressive, evangelical Christian educators, learning about the world around you was an essential component of religious and moral development. The Christian teacher “who sees God everywhere, loves him in everything,” King explained, “must be able to lead the child to understand the thoughts of God as written in the alphabet of nature.” For King, encouraging a keen sense of observation in her students was the overriding goal of education. In fact, she believed that the knowledge students gained through observation and analysis was “the basis of that right knowledge, which is life eternal.” With this view King asserted that a meaningful relationship with God required an understanding and appreciation of the world he created, making education a religious and moral imperative. Helping students decipher the “alphabet of nature” would remain a central component of Julia King’s approach to teaching and learning for the next forty-six years of her career.
The religious imperative that compelled King to teach was not the only way her Christianity influenced her teaching. King’s progressive, evangelical Christian view of citizenship also played a crucial role in her development of history teacher training courses. In a speech to dedicate the opening of Starkweather Hall on Michigan State Normal School’s campus in 1897 (editor’s note: Starkweather Hall is the featured image at the top of the page) King spoke clearly about the importance of Christian morals in shaping young people and illustrated her pervasive conception of Christian citizenship. In commending the Student’s Christian Association and Mary Starkweather’s efforts to build a place for religious activities on the MSNS campus King asked “How many Christians in our school-community hold St. Paul’s conception?” King interpreted Paul’s idea as an organic process by which all people who foster a spiritual relationship with Jesus were citizens “in a spiritual empire.” She continued with the metaphor, reminding listeners that the law and material of a good Christian life required doing the work of God— the work of building up and perfecting life. For King and other evangelical Christians of the period, this work was paramount to a good moral life and had close ties to emerging notions of modernity and progress. King called for the public’s “unconditional acquiescence” to laboring arduously in order to secure favorable conditions that allow human progress to take place. Harkening once more to the religious imperative to educate the public, King declared this labor to be both the professional and moral obligation of teachers.
Fulfilling this obligation required that teachers provide what King identified as the two preconditions for human development; truth and knowledge. Good Christian teachers, King claimed, must have an “unflinching honesty” regarding known truths. For King, holding unexamined spiritual convictions in place of intellectual development was a dishonest practice that teachers must not fall prey to, explaining that a “lack of correspondence between truth professed and truth lived is a fearful hindrance to growth in Christian life.” Instead, King called on every future teacher to embrace truth and act as a conduit for transmitting the truth to their students. This led naturally to her second precondition, knowledge. Sustenance of the mind, like that of the body, requires a food source. In King’s opinion, pursuing the truth and providing the mind with its required fuel fulfilled the intellectual and spiritual goals of a Christian education. Comparing the role of teachers to the role of religious law in St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians (3:24-25), King declared that teachers should always be in the process of making themselves unnecessary for their students by bringing the student to Christ through their intellectual training.
Though King believed that it was a teacher’s professional responsibility to bring her students to Christ through intellectual development, she understood that education did not—indeed cannot— exist in a social vacuum. The community also had a central role to play in educating the nation’s youth. Community support meant more than simply providing financial backing, though this has always been education’s most pressing issue. For King, meaningful community support required a prevailing spirit of “interest and helpful sympathy.” Presaging the phrase Hillary Rodham Clinton made famous in 1996, King argued that it took an engaged and supportive community to effectively raise children in a civilized, Christian, democratic world. Binding the principles of progressive, evangelical Christianity and democratic citizenship together, King challenged Americans to lend both material and philosophic support to the nation’s schools. She warned readers that ignorance, and its natural consequence crime, were spreading across the land. King argued, and many education reformers since have echoed her, that the best preventative measure against this blight was a strong and fully supported public school system and urged Americans to take seriously their moral duty as good neighbors and collectively support the schools.
History Education at Michigan State Normal School Under Julia Anne King
King’s approach to history left a lasting impression on her students. In 1961, at the age of ninety-five, Warren E. Hicks, who had been one of King’s students at MSNS seventy-seven years earlier (in 1884), wrote an essay for his granddaughter Dorothy Jean Furber Byers explaining American history from 1860-1890. Hicks described King’s course as a “big” event in his educational training, and a formative experience in how to teach history. In the course of explaining his understanding of United States history from 1860-1890 Hicks offered a glimpse into the MSNS history classroom from 1881-1915.
Julia A. King was a robust woman, her hair sprinkled with gray—probably 54 years old… This day the topic before her class of 65 was “What was the cause of the Civil War?” She called on several in the class, shuffling the cards in her hand that gave the names of students in her class. One student said “he thought”—and he got no further. Miss King said: “This is history class. We know!”
For King, the study of history focused on determining causal relationships based on known facts and analytically explaining how the past created the present. In the example Hicks recalled, King stressed the importance of succession and union as the causal factor that lead to the Civil War—this was the dominant historiographic position of the mid-nineteenth century— but reminded her students not to get bogged down in the minutiae of the conflict itself. Eschewing the details of the war, particularly the names, dates, and battles that comprised the actual fighting, King reminded her students that these were “minor and not major things to remember.” The important things to remember were the causes and consequences of the past.
King’s preoccupation with causes and consequences echo those that history advocates used to argue for the subject’s inclusion in the curriculum. Active and informed citizenship— endemic to a democratic society— required that the public have a general understanding of the past that provided context for the social problems of the present. In claiming a role for history in the schools its advocates argued that the study of history could provide this knowledge while allowing citizens to make informed inferences from past issues. Concurrent with its rise to prominence within the schools, history as a teaching field become increasingly prominent in teacher training programs. Indeed, history courses at Michigan State Normal School had been a part of the teacher education program from their inception in the late 1860s, and not a distinct and separate subject matter. This practice continued on through the first decades of the twentieth century under the leadership of Julia Anne King. King’s educational training at MSNS, her experience as a teacher and school administrator, and her conflation of Christian morality and US citizenship compelled her to think of history as a unifier of the curriculum and she taught her students to teach the subject from what educational professionals of the twenty-first century would describe as a child-centered philosophy. King’s approach to teaching history embraced many of the curricular recommendations of the AHA’s Committee of Seven, including their world historical perspective and the way the narrative narrowed as students progressed through the sequence of courses. King also eschewed rote memorization in teaching history, instead favoring an inquiry based methodology. King’s historical and pedagogical approaches, along with her Christian worldview, produced over thirty years of history teachers who advanced her socially transformative vision for history and citizenship into the classroom.
If King’s “progressive” philosophy of history education as an instrument of social development and change seems extraordinary to observers today, it was in harmony with the best practices of the time. As we have seen above, the American Historical Association’s Committee of Seven placed a similar importance on history’s role in creating active citizens (editor’s note: this is the chapter on Lucy Maynard Salmon). This view was also widely held by those in the educational field. In fact, King was well aware of this professional position and actively disseminated these views to her colleagues and students at MSNS as most of her surviving written work (both published and non-published) focused on history’s role in social education.
Throughout her tenure at Michigan State Normal School King kept abreast of the emerging professional discourse on teaching history and sought to apply these principles to history teacher training at MSNS—though they were often espousing positions King already annunciated. For example, when the AHA formed another committee to examine history education in 1909, the Committee of Eight, King succinctly summarized their report. As King notes, the Committee of Eight identified four aims for history education: 1) To help students appreciate “what his fellows are doing,” 2) to help students voluntarily and intelligently agree or disagree with others actions/positions, 3) to foster a spirit of “ethical cooperation,” and 4) to cultivate a “habit of mind or a disposition of mind” that encourages social action. In order to achieve these goals the Committee of Eight directed teachers to link the past to the present, King explained. For example, the Committee of Eight’s frequent references to the importance of “social history” stressed the connections between changes in the physical and social world taking place in the early twentieth century. “Life is being prolonged and made more tolerable because of the physical sciences and arts,” the Committee exclaimed, explaining that each development stemmed from man’s “social interests.” Indeed, the Committee of Eight declared, “the material world is incident to his social world.” Continuing the world historical perspective first advanced by the Committee of Seven, King forges a connection between the Committee of Eight’s material/social dichotomy and the “divine prefect” common across societies from the “Vedic hymns” to the early twentieth century world. What the Committee of Eight alluded to, King made explicit—material and social “progress” was only possible if paired with a commitment to the greater public good.
These were not new ideas for Julia King in 1909. In fact, she had been articulating them since arriving at MSNS. In “Citizenship and the Kingdom,” written in the 1880s, King explained her view of history’s place in education with similar terms. Effective citizenship, a necessary precondition for the development of society, required citizens to place the benefit of the general public over individual concerns. For King, the traditional goals of citizenship and social good held by every society were compatible with the aims of progressive Christianity. In particular, King focused on what she viewed as nearly universal beliefs in the righteousness of self-denial and the development of the individual through education and training. Selflessness, as King explained it, was not exclusive to the Christian faith. Nor was it merely a Western fashion. After all, “the old Brahmins thought,” King wrote, “that self forgetting was the way by which the soul at last became absorbed into the infinite.” For the practice of education King turned to Plato and the Greeks, who claimed that through continued education man could finally attain “his ideal” state. According to King, all moral systems used similar methods to achieve the same goals. They demand “right being,” and direct their adherents to sacrifice, self-denial, education, and discipline. Though every society represents the “Kingdom of Heaven” that such practices could “win” in a different fashion, the positive effects of these acts seemed self-evident to King. These were the principles of citizenship that she believed created a spirit of cooperation and fostered a sense of collective benefit.
History education at MSNS under Julia King reflected this spirit. Agreeing with the positions advanced by the NEA and AHA in their late nineteenth century reports, King enthusiastically promoted an active role for history education in creating engaged citizens. This point is made clear in King’s unpublished manuscript History as a Means of Education, where she combines emerging professional curricular trends with her own religiously-based interpretation of history and citizenship. Seeking to define history, King details various expert characterizations of the field. Historians, King claims, presented history as the story of humanity becoming, the evolution of humanity, or the process of human development. Put more plainly by Alexander von Humboldt, history was the “exhibition of what has happened.” While these definitions captured the essential content of historical study, the context of the subject was inherently ethical. History, King offered, lays “in the lofty realm of morals, it vitally concerns man in his human relations.” History under Julia Anne King at MSNS was taught as a story of the common human experience and was inexorably connected to the contemporary social environment.
It is in this social environment, King argued, that mankind developed “his I-feeling and his You-feeling;” where people developed their individual and collective conscious sense of “right and justice;” and where people could cultivate a love of knowledge. Made possible by generations of knowledge in disciplines as disparate as science, law, art, theology, education, and government teamed with the development of social institutions that subjugated nature to mankind’s will, students of history could draw upon a wealth of accumulated information. Echoing the Committee of Eight’s position on the material and social world, King lamented what she viewed as a growing disconnect between the material/social world and the spiritual world, calling for a more “profound” and “rigorous” social consciousness, and a “living conception of human progress.” King pointedly asked, “what can history do in the education of the individual to meet the demand?” The answer was that history in the classroom offers a way to illuminate the vital experiences of the people. Historical investigation, King wrote, had to be “a study in the concrete of the great constructive principle [she] called cooperative, material aid.” While acknowledging that competing narratives for history in the schools existed, King eschewed frameworks that addressed social history in contentious ways due to their preoccupation with destructive forces such as revolutions and “struggles,” and instead believed that history was better taught through the common experiences that displayed positive contributions to the contemporary world. King’s vision for history education challenged students to think about the important changes to society that occurred in the aftermath of a social upheaval rather than the minutia of a revolution’s historical record. For early history teachers like King, studying causal relationships and the consequences of human decisions were the essence of good history teaching.
King’s course on United States History stands as proof of her commitment to these ideals. King began each of her history courses with a discussion on the nature of history, asking the deceptively simple question “What is History?” After defining the term, including a foray into the word’s etymology, King explained the various contemporary applications of historical knowledge. Moving from popular understandings of history, King directed her students to the emerging professional discourse on the subject. In what she labeled “The Science of History,” King explored with her students notions of “fundamental laws known as cause” and cautioned them to avoid thinking about history as a “mass of loosely connected facts.” Given the mission of MSNS King followed the general discussion on the nature of the field of history with an examination of the objectives for teaching a particular historical subject in the nation’s schools. King, again echoing the Committee of Seven, clearly understood the object of teaching United States history in the schools was “to train good, intelligent citizens.” Creating these citizens required the cultivation of their mental faculties and moral qualities, King explained to her students.
Mental, or intellectual, powers were to be developed by teaching historical ideas in order to “know the present.” Connecting the past to the contemporary environment cultivated a sense of the relevancy of historical events to the students own lives and helped them to evaluate how they came to understand that world prior to encountering this information. Students were taught to examine the historical record for cause and effect relations. King believed that such training allowed students to sharpen their critical thinking skills by asking them to reconstruct the past using deductive reasoning rather than merely regurgitating the account put forward by their teacher or textbook. Additionally, King sought to remind her students of the particular historical context in which past events took place. In truth, getting students to understand the significance of the historical “conditions” that past events take place was paramount to successfully teaching students to think historically. Legitimate historical inquiry required a solid understanding of the circumstances and environment of past times and places. Recreations of the past without such context were little more than conjecture and did not help students develop a deeper understanding of how past actions helped create the current world.
King was equally concerned with the moral qualities that history education offered students. As the above section about King’s views on Christianity and citizenship suggests, she believed that history courses had a responsibility to provide positive moral instruction. Using terminology that conservative culture warriors would evoke over three-quarters of a century later, King argued that teachers of United States history should teach the “great-deeds and ideas” of the nation’s past. Though the rhetoric sounds familiar to history education observers since the Culture Wars, the core principles of King’s position have little to do with those of the modern conservative movement. King was not interested in creating a self-congratulatory history curriculum whose main goal was to foster an uncritical patriotic love of country. Instead, King advocated promoting those aspects of the American past that illustrated selflessness and the greater civic good, seeking to awaken in students an “enthusiasm for that which is noble and right.” Her moral and Christian based US history course at MSNS celebrated the differences in opinion that existed in American history, seeking to promote sympathy with divergent points of view and form a greater sense of human fellowship. That is not to say her approach had no role for nationalism or patriotism. Their place in the history curriculum was in the struggles and triumphs of the past. In line with the religious/moral worldview that dominated teacher training of the period and a persistent, if not prominent, general professional disinterest in political or military history, King was interested promoting a patriotic history of the individuals and communities who labored to create the United States social environment of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Though the orientation and narrative themes King promoted in conjecture with the teaching of United States history are instructive, her methodological approach is equally enlightening. While advocates for the social studies movement in the early twentieth century and later historians of history education have presented history instruction during this period as overly concerned with rote memorization, narrow in scope, and generally disconnected with the contemporary lives of students, it does not match the actual approaches to teaching the subject that Julia Anne King and other like minded members of the first generation of professional history teachers employed. Instead, King promoted a “progressive” approach to teaching history. Rather than leading students through a staid chronological account of historical “facts,” King recommended teaching the “ideas below the facts.” Introducing students to ideas in action and the notion of the past as a process helped students to discover the relationships between disparate events and reconstruct a larger, more complex story of the past. To illustrate this approach to her students King offered the example of property rights, public domain, and slavery. Each of these topics had their own unique series of events that formed and perpetuated their use. Understanding the conflict between personal property rights, the right of the public to certain property, and notion of human beings as property of others required students develop an understanding of the historical conditions that presaged their creation, the motivating factors that led to their alteration, and the pressures to resolve the inherent contradiction between them. History taught through rote memorization could never help students contextualize such complex relationships.
The narrow scope of early history education also appears to be over-exaggerated. As the Committee of Seven noted in their examination of existing history curriculum, many teachers were already approaching history from a global perspective. This is reflected in King’s approach to US history as well. In fact, this was the first point King told students to keep in mind when developing their own course in US history. “Our history,” King explained, “is clearly connected with that of other nations.” Noting the inheritance and influence of European customs on the development of government and social institutions in the United States, King made it clear to her students that no nation’s history existed in isolation. For example, the laws and government in England had direct impacts on their American counterparts. The colonists’ adjustment of these institutions to deal with the conditions of their world—such as immigration, colonial rivalry, and conflicts with indigenous peoples— had to be made in a similarly complicated international context.
The third critique of history education, a lack of concern with the lives and interests of students, is also missing in King’s approach. King’s approach to teaching the past through the casual factors that created the present addresses the former of these dual concerns, while her choice in materials and methodology addresses the latter. King instructed her students to liberally use visual materials like pictures, maps, and artwork to provide a vivid image of the past, particularly for grade school aged students. Incidents from the lives of individuals were also welcome, especially in the form of letters, speeches, and publications. Teaching with such tools formed a dramatic picture of the past that engaged students and created meaningful and lasting impressions. Methodologically, King told future teachers to clearly identify and develop the ideas they wished to present throughout the course. Establishing core learning objectives allowed teachers to select the most relevant material to present to their classes, created repetitive themes that allow students to more quickly understand material, and teachers could weave these ideas into the course to create connections between lessons throughout the school year. Pedagogically King claimed that history must be taught in a largely conversational form. Socratic questioning modeled critical thinking practices for the students, and allowed them to develop autonomous historical thinking skills. As for assessment, King guided her pupils to avoid testing through simple recall. Instead, students learning should be measured by the students’ individual abilities to reproduce history in writing. History teacher training at the nation’s largest normal school ran counter to each of the major critiques leveled on it by contemporary critics and subsequent reviewers.
Despite these critics’ claims that professional history education training in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century had already become a stodgy field riddled with outdated approaches and nebulous objectives, it actually appears to have been a vibrant young discipline, with progressive approaches to teaching and learning, and a clearly defined purpose. In fact, history’s unique claim to serve a greater civic good was one of the few credible justifications public schooling advocates could point to in asking society to pay to educate the wider public. Citizenship training was the keystone of history education. This was true at MSNS as well. However, citizenship training was not simply about memorizing the rules of government and the rights of citizens. It was about caring for one’s neighbor and working for the collective good. As King explained to her pupils;
History deals with human thoughts and feelings expressing themselves in human actions. It exhibits in concrete form the greatest facts of human life, group consciousness, and mutual aid. These ideas in the mind are naturally the controlling forces we humans conduct to transform history… the ethics of life [are] the natural result of teaching. In the early grades the material for teaching group conscious and material aid lies in the activity of the pupil in games, work, true play, history stories, etc. An intelligent use of this material cannot fail to establish a habit of mind in the pupil or in other words to develop his historical sense from which springs ethical cooperation. 
History was the vehicle for social education. Stressing reciprocity and mutuality, King promoted a vision of history education that strove to provide meaning to social will and consciousness. Mindful of the role of the individual in American society, King argued that the citizens were at once individuals and a collective, existing and developing together. Such a society, King explained, was like an organism whose evolution we call history. For King, the aim of education was more than the preparation of citizens to make an active contribution to society. After all, laws and institutional enforcement policies already protected the public from itself and individual economic prosperity motivated industrious contributions. The utility of education, and the great need for it in American society, was in aiding the individual to gain possession of both the individual self and the social self. King’s socially progressive Christian notion of collective good advocated connecting self-consciousness to common-consciousness, arguing forcefully that this was the business of the schools. The individual desire to “overcome nature in the satisfaction of need and greed” was not an isolated event and understanding the social consequences of individual actions exposes the organic nature of the individual’s relationship with society. Juxtaposing the phrases “Public office is a public trust” and “Private business is a public trust,” King pointed out the limits of social ethics in American society. While social ethics were accepted practices for public servants, the history of American industry illustrated that individuals outside the government were held to no such standard. Ingraining a greater sense of civic responsibility, King argued, was a necessity in a democratic society and could only be accomplished through education.
Calling on her Christian views of citizenship, the nineteenth century mission for teaching, and the growing socially centered school curriculum movement King explained that the whole scope of social ethics were a matter for education. This notion required the schools to explain and unify the whole of social life for students. The subject of history offered the greatest promise to fulfilling this goal. “The events of history fall within the realm of morals since they spring from the thoughts and feelings of society,” King exclaimed. Under this approach, the whole story of the human experience was an account of social ethics. While King stopped short of claiming ethics as the main aim of history—as most historians before and since she extolled the virtues of history for its own sake—she did state that ethical training was a natural consequence of history in the schools. Using the example of an elementary classroom where the most recent lesson focused on the frontier life of the American west, King evoked visions of a little group of children “transformed” into cowboys. This same impulse exists in more mature minds, King reminded her readers, transforming the ideas of history into the ideals of their social world. Utilizing historical sequencing, civic ideals, and the application of logic, history classes take on formative powers. King claimed that connections between the dramas of the past and the “humdrum” of the present enriched the lives of students. As a student’s interests and understanding of their own life deepens, historical material presented responsibly should create a broader interest and a spirit of cooperation. This ethical role of history in the curriculum was predominate in the history teacher training program at Michigan State Normal School under Julia Anne King in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Teachers emerging from MSNS went out into the nation’s emerging public schools aiming to create citizens who acted responsibly in society by virtue of a broad notion of the collective good and an active spirit of cooperation that they learned in their history classroom…
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