William Holmes McGuffey’s First Eclectic Reader

“McGuffey is remembered as a conservative theological teacher. He interpreted the goals of public schooling in terms of moral and spiritual education, and attempted to give schools a curriculum that would instill Presbyterian Calvinist beliefs and manners in their students. While these goals were considered suitable for the relatively homogeneous America of the early-to-mid-19th century, they were less so for the increasingly pluralistic society that developed in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The content of the readers changed drastically between McGuffey’s 1836-1837 edition and the 1879 edition. The revised Readers were compiled to meet the needs of national unity and the dream of an American melting pot for the world’s oppressed masses. The Calvinist values of salvation, righteousness, and piety, so prominent in the early Readers, were excluded from the later versions. The content of the books was secularized and replaced by middle-class civil religion, morality and values. McGuffey’s name was featured on these revised editions, yet he neither contributed to them nor approved their content.”

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