Rebecca Onion has an entertaining post on Slate that briefly chronicles the visual history of merit based teaching in American education. While the methodology behind the documents might be dubious, many of the certificates are beautifully rendered. She links to the The Henry Ford digital archive for more examples.
Between 1830 and 1860, historian Carl F. Kaestle has written, American schools, influenced by theories stemming from European educators Joseph Lancaster and Johann Pestalozzi, began to favor the inculcation of “internalized discipline through proper motivation.” In practice, this kind of discipline might include positive reinforcement, like these certificates, as well as corporal punishment.
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