Helen Parkhurst and the Dalton School

  • Susan F. Semel


Helen Parkhurst, progressive educator, was the founding mother of the Dalton School, an independent, child-centered school located in New York City. In its early years, the school survived because of Helen Parkhurst. Her vision and force of personality engendered great loyalty from her faculty, school parents, board of trustees, and students. Her particular strand of progressive education, which came to be known as the Dalton Plan, was adopted in places as distant as Japan. However, Helen Parkhurst, the woman, was an anomaly. Her competence as a progressive educator was unquestionable, but on a personal level she exhibited a single-minded persuasiveness, a driving ambition, and an unparalleled ability to use people to achieve her own ends. I believe that her entrepreneurial approach to education, her forceful personality, and her single-minded determination were responsible for The Dalton Plan taking root in the Children’s University School, renamed the Dalton School in 1920.


House System Progressive Education Board Meeting Public High School Independent School 
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    This chapter is adapted from Susan F. Semel, The Dalton School: The Transformation of a Progressive School (New York: Peter Lang, 1992), chaps. 2, 3.Google Scholar
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© Alan R. Sadovnik, Susan F. Semel 2002

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  • Susan F. Semel

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