Guest Post: Rachel Remmel on the Graded School in 19th Century Boston

In this blog post, Rachel Remmel places her forthcoming article, “The Spaces of the Schoolhouse and the City: Gender and Class in Boston Education, 1830-1832,” in its historical and historiographical contexts. Remmel is Assistant Professor of American Studies at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester. Her research focuses on school architecture and museum history, both institutions intended to transmit and shape values. Her book project is The Origins of the American School Building: Boston Public School Architecture, 1789–1860.

This article represents part of my larger book project, which explores why, in 1847, Bostonians developed the graded school, which divides students by age and ability into small, individually taught classrooms. This model is so ubiquitous and familiar within the United States that it is difficult for many to envision that there were ever alternatives. Yet the graded school was not inevitable, and the first half of the nineteenth century was a time of widespread experimentation with school organization. In order to understand the success of the graded school, it is important to understand what problems Bostonians thought it solved and what drawbacks the alternatives presented. The failed reforms of 1830-1832 represent a clear snapshot of both the problems Bostonians perceived and the drawbacks of one alternative reorganization.

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