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Schoolroom
Schoolroom

This illustration depicts an early Illinois schoolroom. In most frontier schools a single teacher taught children of many, or even all grade levels in a single room. Teachers were often recent graduates themselves and offered only rote recitation in what many termed "blab schools." The state of American schools occasioned a great reform movement in the antebellum period. In the late 1830s no state had built a statewide educational system. Local arrangements varied widely. Wealthy families sent their children to private schools or tutors, but other parents counted themselves lucky if they had access to a blab school. Many children simply did not go to school at all. School reformers argued that state and local governments should supervise the organization of free schools, supported by tax monies and staffed by trained teachers. Led by the Massachusetts reformer Horace Mann, this national movement reorganized American education. Teachers received training at a new generation of "normal schools" and taught with standard textbooks like the McGuffey Readers.

Image source: Northern Illinois University
©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project