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“The Masses and Not the Classes”: A Tradition of Welcoming Nontraditional Students

  • Christine A. Ogren

Abstract

During their first three decades of existence, state normal schools were on shaky ground. They struggled against public skepticism and scrutiny, limited state funding, and the popularity of teacher education in other types of institutions. Making only small advances toward developing and teaching educational theory, normals were successful in fulfilling their intention to instill their students with a sense of teaching as a calling. They also began—for the most part unintentionally—to expose their students, many of whom would not otherwise have had access to advanced education, to a wider intellectual world. Beginning in the 1870s, these intentional and unintentional successes of the early years became defining characteristics of the state normal schools. Between the 1870s and the 1900s, state normals found themselves on much firmer ground as they gained in number and size and their opposition faded somewhat. In many ways, this 40-year period would be the heyday of the state normal schools, when they offered a unique educational environment for a distinct student body. The normals not only attracted students who a century later would have earned the label “nontraditional,” but they also served these students quite effectively. S. Y. Gillan, who graduated from Illinois State Normal University, summed up the “democratic spirit” of the normal: “it was a school of the people existing for and representing the masses and not the classes.”1

Keywords

Teacher Education Black Student White Student African American Student Normal School 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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2 “The Masses and Not the Classes”: A Tradition of Welcoming Nontraditional Students

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© Christine A. Ogren 2005

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  • Christine A. Ogren

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