In the document Early American Textbooks, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, of the US Department of Education, says:
Nothing gives us insight into the history of education more clearly than do school textbooks of the past They tell us what people thought was worth knowing the — content of education. They provide clues about how teachers taught — the methods of instruction. And they reveal what was expected of students — the standards of pupil assessment and evaluation. But the American textbooks of the nineteenth century do more than merely supply data on these aspects of education; the history of theses chool textbooks gives usa valuable key to understanding the dynamics of educational change in America. For American education is, and has long been,t extbook-centered. School textbooks largely determine the content of what it taught, the methods of instruction, and the means of assessing student performance. The history of American school textbooks chronicles and reflects the essential changes in American education.
In the foreword to the document, they say:
THE EARLY AMERICAN TEXTBOOK COLLECTION is a special historical collection housed in the Educational Research Library of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. The Collection contains more than 12,000 volumes of texts used or published in America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Textbooks used in the subject fields most commonly taught in the early schools, as well as books used for supplementary reading and study, are represented in the Collection. This Catalog of Early American Textbooks is an attempt to provide wider visibility and access to this outstanding Collection.
The Collection had its beginnings in the Bureau of Education, established within the Department of Interior in 1869, and the forerunner of the U.S. Office of Education. Early administrators in the Bureau believed it desirable to collect these books, which were becoming scarce, in order to provide a better historical record of their development, and to exhibit them along with modern textbooks for comparative purposes. Henry Barnard, the first Commissioner of Education, expressed interest in the Collection and contributed books from his personal library. A ‘Museum of Textbooks’ was planned by the Bureau; however, it never materialized because of lack of funds and shortages of space.
In 1953, when the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was created, the former Bureau of Education Library was merged with the newly established departmental library. Only a small portion of the Early American Textbook Collection was retained in this library. The remainder of the Collection was fragmented and deposited in various public, college and university libraries in the Washington area. In 1973, that portion of the textbooks housed at the departmental library was transferred along with the major education collection at the National Institute of Education to form the nucleus of the Educational Research Library.
With the increase in requests for volumes not included in the Library’s small collection of textbooks, it soon became evident that there was indeed a scarcity of early American textbooks. Researchers and historians were often unable to locate copies of earlier editions at other libraries. Recognizing the need for a comprehensive collection of early American textbooks, the Library initiated steps to acquire the remaining volumes which were in storage at three area libraries. In 1977, the final portion of the Early American Textbook Collection was officially transferred to the Educational Research Library. For the first time in several decades, the textbooks have now been integrated and housed as a single collection.
This Catalog of Early American Textbooks contains a representative selection of textbooks from the overall Collection and is a sequel volume to the Fifteenth to Eighteenth Century Rare Books on Education published by the Institute in 1976. As a result of the efforts expended in the compilation of these volumes, two significant historical collections, the Early American Textbook Collection and the Rare Book Collection,have been permanently established as educational resources for future study and research on the early development and trends in American education.
Office of Educational Research and Improvement
Chester E. Finn,Jr.
Check it out! Old texts sometimes are better written and have a better implicit, if not explicit, logic to them: they are better for teaching one how to think rationally.