High Hopes and High Hurdles: The Early Development of the Washington D.C. Public School System, 1804-1862
Hoffman, Benjamin Polk
MacDonald, Victoria M
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In this history, I investigate the early development of Washington D.C.'s public schools. Between 1804 and 1862, the school system overcame a long period of failed hopes and underfunding to build a legitimate infrastructure for common schooling before the Civil War. The unique context of Washington D.C. affected the public schools, but themes central to 19th century urban education across the country also surface in the District. The progression of the system from charity schooling to universal education mirrored the development of other public school systems in the Northeast. The evolution of the language of educational advocacy in D.C., from calls for republican virtue to arguments for social reform, similarly correlated with national developments in public education. Outside of these similarities, however, the Southern nature of the District, the presence of national politicians, and the symbolic importance of the national capital, distinguished the experience of Washington's pre-1862 public schools.