Education in America as we know it today draws its origins from the philosophical perspectives and political objectives of the common school reformers over a century ago. For them, mass education was a primary vehicle for defining ourselves as a nation. Schools would develop civic virtue and a national character through a shared set of values reflected in the school curriculum. The common school experience, offered to all regardless of social class or ethnic background, would assimilate the hordes of immigrants coming to our shores and meet the emerging needs of industrialization. Individuals across the economic spectrum, afforded education at public expense, would both realize their own potential and support civic purposes through their enhanced participation as informed citizens sharing a common public philosophy. In other words, education would serve individual interests founded in liberal philosophy as well as communitarian goals founded in both democratic and republican theory.

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