Junius L. Meriam's elementary school
Chidester, Lori Hope
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Junius L. Meriam’s (1872-1960) work as a progressive educator remains overlooked by today’s educational historians. A critic of highly traditional teaching methods, Meriam also opposed progressive practices that advocated the abolishment of traditional subject matter. Instead, he encouraged using activities appropriate to children’s interests to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. He put his theory into practice as Professor of Education at the University of Missouri from 1905 until 1924, during which time he directed the work of the university-sponsored elementary school. This study reconstructs Junius L. Meriam’s work at University Elementary School, explores the implications of Meriam’s work for an understanding of early twentieth century progressive education, and explores the implications of Meriam’s work for curriculum practice today. This study utilizes historical research, a collection and evaluation of data intended to describe, explain, and comprehend actions or events of the past. The reconstruction of Meriam’s work not only elucidates the past by exploring the implications of the work for the prevailing interpretations of early twentieth century progressive education, but also reveals whether a correlation exists between past and current curriculum theories and practices. Meriam’s work at University Elementary school demonstrated a curriculum that focused on the needs of children without regard to their future plans. Even while enabling children to live more efficiently as children, however, the curriculum was preparing them for the future. While today’s schools might not be able to implement the same curriculum that Meriam implemented at University Elementary School, his principles could be the foundation for the development of a curriculum appropriate for today’s society. Students could pursue topics in which they are interested and might have a better idea about what they would like to do when they graduate from high school. Regardless of whether one sees the purpose of education as preparation for the future or enabling students to live better lives while they are students, a curriculum based on Meriam’s principles fulfills the purpose.