Printer Friendly

Chapter 8: the con/text of Mary Sheldon Barnes (1850-1898): a hermeneutic inquiry.

The tapestry of the genesis of public schooling is so complex that educational scholars may have only just begun to unravel it. This article will further that unraveling by exploring the work of Mary Sheldon Barnes (1850-1898), first female professor of Stanford University. By focusing on particular research and pedagogical texts of Barnes, our aim is to understand both how she formed and was formed by the intellectual and educational milieu of her times. Furthermore, we suggest the possibility that the influence of her work may continue to linger in current educational thought and practice. We begin by explaining the benefits of hermeneutic inquiry for this type of project, move from there to an analysis of Barnes's texts, and conclude by proposing a resolution for what Monteverde (1999) has called the "conundrum" (p. 35) of Mary Sheldon Barnes.

The philosophical hermeneutics of Gadamer provide the theoretical framework for the exploration of the texts in this study. Although Gallagher (1992) types Gadamer's approach as "moderate," we believe that our project may also be considered critical in that we seek greater insight into our own "pre-understanding," thereby allowing us in some way to transcend our present situation. (1) As Gadamer (1960/1997) notes, "Insight is more than the knowledge of this or that situation. It always involves an escape from something that had deceived us and held us captive" (p. 356). We must acknowledge that while this emancipation represents a place of wider understanding, the nature of understanding is that it is never complete or permanent. We can never escape the limits imposed upon us by our pre-understandings; we will never attain a vantage point from which new questions cease to arise.

Regarding hermeneutic methodology, Laverty (2003) points out that there is no universal set of appropriate procedures, but there is an "obligation to understand the context under which the text or dialogue was being produced and to bring forth interpretations of meaning" (p. 21). Gadamer (1960/1997) proposes that hermeneutics is the art of conducting a conversation, the "art of the formation of concepts as the working out of common meanings" (p. 368). A useful understanding of the text itself is possible only if the text is seen in a limited field of inquiry. If we expect a response from the text, we must limit what we wish to learn from it by addressing specific questions to it. While curriculum scholars have taken up hermeneutic methodology in a variety of ways (e.g., Blumenfeld-Jones, 2004; Brooks, 2000; Reynolds, 1989), we felt the approach of Blumenfeld-Jones provided an appropriate set of questions to pose to this particular set of texts. Like Blumenfed-Jones, our intention was to examine literal curricular texts so that we "might learn who we are as historical beings living in the onflowing stream of thought that comprises our particular field of endeavor" (p. 126). In addition, we desired "an approach that reveals the historical characteristics of curriculum and their direct material presence in the curriculum text itself" (p. 127). Therefore, we decided to explore the texts of Mary Sheldon Barnes by utilizing the concepts of "ostensive, personal, [and] historical motives" (p. 128). In short, this involves a search for (1) explicitly stated reasons why the text was produced, (2) specific, individualized issues that the curricularist has within the field that moved her to conceive of new curricula, and (3) general, historical, sociocultural conditions that create a context for the text. Blumenfeld-Jones emphasizes,
   Of the three motives ... this last may be the most difficult to
   explicate, but in some ways it is the most significant. Although a
   curriculum may be the product of the curricularist's imagination,
   no curriculum emanates idiosyncratically from the person's mind or
   responds to an isolated tradition. The multiple contexts of the
   curricularist's decision making not only affect decisions but must
   find a material presence in the curriculum. (p. 127)

For the work of Mary Sheldon Barnes, we find this last motive to be particularly significant.


Within hermeneutic inquiries, authors and readers are both thought of as being products of a plurality of historical and textual connections, resulting in what Gadamer (1960/1997) describes as a historically effected consciousness:
   If we are trying to understand a historical phenomenon from the
   historical distance that is characteristic of a hermeneutical
   situation, we are always already affected by history. It determines
   in advance both what seems to us worth inquiring about and what
   will appear as an object of investigation. (p. 300)

Hermeneutic inquiries require, therefore, that researchers recognize their situatedness in this web of textuality. In our situation, the work of Mary Sheldon Barnes was first brought to our attention through Ben's research on educational research methods in the early days of the U.S. public school movement. Approaching the library at the University of Pennsylvania as an archeological site with titles going at least as far back as the late 1700s, Ben went into the stacks in search of the oldest text book on educational research methods that he could find. What he unearthed was Studies in Education, a series of 10 research monographs in child-study and the history of education, edited by Earl Barnes (1896-97/1903a), Mary's husband. The series included the two articles of Mary's that we will discuss here, together with several pieces that directly address educational research methods. Sometime later, the two of us discovered that we share an interest in textual analysis and a fascination with the role that scientism has played in curriculum. This project grew from our discussions of the work of Mary Barnes and our interest in exploring her work through a hermeneutic lens.

We see the aforementioned two articles from Studies in Education as typical of the work of Mary Barnes. One of these pieces examines the historic sense in primitive peoples, while the second examines the historic sense in children. Each of these articles refer to the other. Following a comparison of the results reported in each, Barnes makes a set of recommendations for teaching history in schools from primary schools through college that drew us to study them because we felt they were eerily familiar. We felt that perhaps we had not only encountered them before, but that we might have been schooled according to them--that Mary Sheldon Barnes' recommendations had become part of our pre-understanding. In addition, we were especially drawn to these two articles--"The Historic Sense Among Primitive Peoples" and "The Historic Sense Among Children"--because of characteristics they exhibit that are apparently contradictory to Barnes' espoused values of scientific "objectivity." Our project focuses on, but is not limited to, an exploration of these two articles that the Barnes's saw as important enough to publish together in several different places at different times--in 1896 in Mary's Studies in Historical Method, in 1896-97 in Earl's Studies in Education series and again in 1903 in a bound reissue of Studies in Education.


Up to now, Mary Barnes has been known for her contributions to the teaching of history and her significance has been limited to her contributions in that field. McAninch (1990) and Monteverde (1999) both acknowledge that Barnes made the application of nineteenth century scientific methods to the study of history "the central focus of her [scholarly] work" (McAninch, 1990, p. 47). In other words, Barnes advocated the use of primary source materials and inductive inquiry, whether she was teaching history at Wellesley College or writing comprehensive history books for junior high students. Thus, she is credited with being well ahead of her time, inasmuch as the push to use primary source material in the teaching of history was still more than half a century away.

However, both McAninch (1990) and Monteverde (1999) point out that while Barnes had the desire and the potential to change how history was taught, it is clear that potential was never realized. McAninch accuses Barnes's work of entailing "a considerable degree of indoctrination" (p. 46) in that it did not challenge students to identify and critically examine the ideological premises of the times, such as faith in a divinely ordered universe and human progress. The picture of Barnes that emerges from Monteverde is conflicted at best. On one hand, she is depicted as being "ahead of her time," pioneering an approach to teaching history that used primary sources and encouraged independent critical thinking. On the other hand, she is portrayed as being unable to critique her own beliefs, including her belief in the primacy of men, which contributed to her invisibility throughout her life and may have prevented her from assuming what Monteverde contends is her rightful place as a historically significant figure in social studies education. In the end, Monteverde cannot explain the paradox--exactly how Mary Barnes could "advocate intellectual open-mindedness" and "fail to subject her own contradictions and assumptions to interrogation" (p. 35) at the same time. Monteverde calls the paradox a "conundrum" that she attributes in a vague way to Mary's "socio-cultural filter" (p. 35).

We propose that a hermeneutic study can offer an explanation for the paradox and a potential resolution of the conundrum. Indeed, we believe a careful exploration of Barnes's work may show that her "socio-cultural filter" was embedded in a theoretical perspective that is directly observable in her work--a theoretical perspective that emerged strongly in educational and psychological research during Barnes's lifetime. Furthermore, we propose that the "direct material presence" (Blumenfeld-Jones, 2004, p. 128) of the age in Barnes's curriculum indicates a broader significance for her work.


Mary Barnes' (explicit motives for the creation of these texts are expressed in the preface of her 1896 methods book, where she declares she wrote Studies in Historical Method for the
   many people who ... would like to be careful and special students and
   teachers of the subject of history . especially for the teacher who
   wishes to specialize his work, and to see the world from this
   particular point of view. For as the world grows smaller, and time
   and space condense, our intellectual world grows greater ... in order
   to have any point of view at all ... we must choose some particular
   height as our own; do the best we can, it will take a good part of
   life to attain any high outlook. (p. 1)

This ostensive motive also reverberates with tones of probable personal motives behind Barnes's project. The intellectual world had not long been open to women and it was still closed to all but a few. The details of Mary Barnes' road to Stanford showed her to be an extraordinary woman of her times, who had foregone a woman's traditional role in order to teach, but even more important, to study. Matriculating with the first female class at the University of Michigan, she included a concentration in the natural sciences with the AB (Artium Baccalaureatus) degree she received there in 1874. Later, she would teach at Wellesley and study at Cambridge University before returning home to Oswego at the age of 36 and marrying a former student, Earl Barnes, who was 11 years her junior. That same year marked the publication of Studies in General History, the first of three textbooks she would write on the study of history. For the next 6 years Mary accompanied her husband as his career took him from Hoboken, New Jersey, to Cornell University to the University of Zurich and to Indiana University before he received the call to join the Stanford faculty. Throughout this time Mary Barnes continued a life of scholarly research, writing, and publishing But wherever she was and whatever she was teaching or studying, Barnes appears to have never moved very far from her life-long area of interest, curriculum, and pedagogy.

She undoubtedly was influenced in this regard by her father, Edward Austen Sheldon (1823-1897) who served as superintendent of Oswego public schools from 1862 until his death. In 1859 he had introduced the colorful, age-appropriate Pestalozzian-inspired methods and materials to local teachers. In 1867 he founded the Oswego Normal School which quickly developed an internationally recognized Pestalozzian teacher preparation program, attracting visitors from as far away as Japan. Prior to leaving for the University of Michigan, the young Mary Sheldon attended the Normal School, took her degree in classical studies, and taught 2 years in the local schools. Over the next 15 years, she would return periodically to teach at Oswego Normal, where a good part of the students' day was spent observing and practicing in local schools.

This sheds light on another of her comments in the preface to Studies in Historical Method.

The curse of secondary teaching is often the fact that after a year or two it provides no free outlet for the mind; but with the rapid development of departmental and individual work, the day is not far off when every one who chooses to teach, and who can protect himself from the insanity of overwork and the frivolity of scattered work, may hope to make his way out of the deadly treadmill of routine to join the life and motion of the greater world of knowledge. (Barnes, 1896, p. 2)

It is possible that Barnes's personal experience in the classroom had motivated her to find greater intellectual stimulation, as well as to attempt to provide that in her publications for others struggling under the "curse of secondary teaching." It appears possible that her Pestalozzian background contributed to her low tolerance for the mind numbing atmosphere of the majority of schools in her day, with their emphasis on memorization and recitation.

Certainly any discussion of Mary Barnes's personal motives would be incomplete without an account of one very important jog on her path from Oswego to Stanford. Shortly after her graduation from the University of Michigan, her interest in chemistry and physics gave way to a commitment to the field of history. This was most obviously evidenced by her denial of an offer to teach science at Wellesley College. Instead, she waited in order to accept a history post that opened up there a few months later. Clearly, she did not see this as an abandonment of the realm of science, as her particular passion was the "scientific study of human history" (Keohane, 1971, p. 92). Here Barnes found a synthesis of all her academic interests: curriculum and pedagogy, history, and science. For the next two decades, she pioneered the "scientific" or "inductive" approach to history in both the classroom and her scholarship.

By the time she arrived at Stanford she had authored three history textbooks which she considered, in current terms, "developmentally appropriate." During her tenure there she produced curricular and pedagogical recommendations related to the teaching of history from kindergarten through college, including the text Studies in Historical Method. She also conducted quantitative studies of area school children and wrote and edited articles on a variety of historical topics. Some of them clearly related to what today would be called the history of education, such as the article focusing on Johann H. Pestalozzi and the "historic sense of primitive peoples" (Barnes, 1896-97/1903b, p. 29). Her work, published together with the work of her graduate students and her husband, contributed to the birth of child study, the widespread research movement spearheaded by G. Stanley Hall.


As Blumenfeld-Jones (2004) points out, any attempt to understand the ostensive and personal motives of a scholar would be lacking without a consideration of the sociocultural context. In the case of Mary Barnes it is possible to see how she both shaped and was shaped by the intellectual milieu of her times. As to the former dynamic, some of Barnes's work was truly original. Monteverde (1999) characterizes Barnes's approach to teaching history as a synthesis of the object lesson method of Pestalozzi and the "source method" (p. 25) of Leopold von Ranke, the German historian famous for his scientific approach to history. Accordingly, Barnes's history books featured primary source material, such as quotations, art reproductions, and drawings of artifacts, followed by numerous questions intended to encourage the reader to interpret the material. Monteverde also notes that minimal amounts of authorial narrative were found in Mary's books, unlike typical history books of the day.

However, certain elements of Barnes's history books seem inconsistent with a scientific (i.e.," objective") approach to history. These inconsistencies are quite noticeable in the blocks of questions that follow the presentation of the primary source material. Monteverde (1999) notes that leading questions such as, "How is Christianity superior [to Islam]?" suggest the presence of an a priori belief in the superiority of White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant America and the assumption that "modesty, submissiveness, and domesticity" (p. 32) were virtues appropriate for women.

But the connection that Monteverde does not appear to seriously consider is that both presuppositions were central tenets of recapitulation theory, "the idea that the child in his or her development must recapitulate the intellectual and moral development of humanity epoch by epoch" (Tanner & Tanner, 1990, p. 101). Indeed, it is as if Monteverde overlooked the phylogeny article, "The Historic Sense Among Primitive Peoples" (1896-97/ 1903a) altogether.

It is understandable. Barnes's (1896-97/1903b) treatment of her subject matter in the "The Historic Sense Among Primitive People," together with the comparison between children and "primitive peoples" (1896-97/ 1903a, p. 47) in "The Historic Sense Among Children," seems outlandish and racist. In these articles tribal cultures are arranged by skin color and demeaning cultural stereotypes (i.e., the darker the skin, the simpler or more "primitive" the culture). However unpalatable such stereotyping and racism are, Gould (1996) points out that they were an essential part of recapitulation theory and could not be separated from it. To exclude the racist aspects of Mary Barnes' articles would be to provide an incomplete picture of her work. Indeed, the racist article on primitive peoples together with the demeaning comparisons between children and primitive peoples in the second article were considered so important to educational research that, as mentioned earlier, they were published at least twice, in Studies in the Historic Method (1896) and Studies in Education (1896-97/1903a). An examination of these articles is able to suggest the degree to which recapitulation theory permeated the scientific, "objective" scholarship of the era, in spite of the protest of such esteemed scholars as Dewey (1916). Such an examination may also shed light on what Monteverde (1999) calls the conundrum of Mary Sheldon Barnes.

Phylogeny: The Historic Sense Among Primitive Peoples

"The Historic Sense Among Primitive Peoples" (Barnes, 1896-97/1903) opens with the claim that it is an inductive, scientific study of primitive people's "historic sense" (p. 29). It then claims that the "historic sense" is composed of separate elements that should be self-evident when one (i.e., the author, Mary Barnes) looks at recorded history. The elements identified are "a true record," "continuous time," "cause and effect," and "the social unit" (p. 29). What ensues is a two-page critique of the ways in which various tribal cultures, living and dead, from around the world, were known to count and keep track of the past.

The tribal cultures are arranged from those that were considered to be the most primitive to those that were considered to be the least primitive. Using few words, little evidence, and no examples, Barnes (1896-97/ 1903b) effectively dismisses the cultures of the Australian Bushmen, the Veddahs of India, Sandwich Islanders, several American Indian tribes, the Eskimo, and the ancient Mexicans as she ranks them. According to Barnes, the Bushmen was a tribe that could not "count above three, [had] no known traditions of origin, nor any known myths" (p. 30) and therefore had no historic sense. The Veddahs of India, on the other hand, could "count as high as five, [had] a tradition of origin, and worship[ped] their ancestors" (p. 30). The section ends with the ancient Mexicans who were on "another stage of culture" because they "counted on by fives indefinitely ... [and] ... marked months and years by astronomical observations" (p. 31).

Next, Barnes (1896-97/1903b) discusses elements of a variety of cultures, such as ancestor worship, myths, songs, and the Bible, that reportedly corresponded to the elements of the historic sense and suggested to her the order in which the elements emerged. Like the arrangement of tribal cultures, the elements are discussed in a simple-to-complex, inferior-to-superior hierarchy. By the end of the "The Historic Sense Among Primitive Peoples," Barnes seems to believe that she has proven the following about the emergence of the historic sense in human history: (1) the sense of cause and effect is more primitive in more primitive peoples, (2) the notion of continuous time develops after the sense of cause and effect, and (3) the methods of scientific history (and her historical methods) develop last of all.

Ontogeny: The Historic Sense Among Children

"The Historic Sense Among Children" is actually a synthesis of four separate statistical studies, and is connected via footnotes and in-text citations to "The Historic Sense Among Primitive Peoples" and other studies found in the volume. The first study summarized in the article seeks to uncover the types of things children are curious about when given a simple story stripped of contextual details that would link it to a particular place or time, such as "date, place, name, or moral." School children, numbering 1,250, from Oakland, Santa Rosa, Napa, and Santa Paula were given the following story to read and respond to:

There was a king who had a beautiful wife whom he dearly loved. But a fair prince came and took her away to a far country. Then the king and all his men went to fight the prince, who lived in a great city all walled about with stone. For many a day the king and his men tried in vain to enter it; buy, at last, by a clever trick, some of his men got into the city, and burned it to the ground; and so the king got his wife once more. (Barnes, 1896-97/1903a, p. 43)

After reading the story, the children were instructed to write down questions that they had about it. The children's responses became the data for the study. Sample sets of questions are included in the text of the article. For example:
   Average set from girl of nine.--Did the king have a beard? How many
   years was the king married when his wife was taken away? What kind
   of a dress did the wife wear when she was married? What was the
   name of the city that the prince lived in? What was the name of the
   stone that was put around the great city? What was the name of the
   prince? (p. 43)

The questions are sorted into categories based on what the children asked after reading the story. The categories that were derived from the questions are "who, where, how, why, result, personal detail and feeling, general detail, ethics, time number, and truth" (p. 43). The data from four of the categories, "who," "where," "how," and "why" are displayed in separate line graphs. A fifth line graph, labeled "how-why-result" presents the combined data of three of the categories. The text notes that the results from those three categories are combined because all three concepts are related to "cause and effect." The conclusion drawn from the results is that children are interested mainly in "action" and want to know primarily "persons, places, [and] relations of cause and effect" (p. 47).

The remaining three studies presented in "The Historic Sense Among Children" used similar methods to examine children's "inferences," "sense of evidence," and their preference for first person accounts of history. Generally speaking, these studies conclude that the younger the child, the more he or she favored concrete historical items and first person accounts of historical events, and, by logical extension, the older a child is, the less he or she favors concrete historical items and first person accounts.

Recommendations directly related to the teaching of history are found towards the end of the article. However, these recommendations do not occur without direct comparisons between the historic sense of "savages" and that of children. For example, the first recommendation appears as follows:

As to the order in which these [elements of the historic sense] appear, we see that among savages they appear all together in the rudimentary form of the myths of origin, which, unplaced in space, vaguely placed in time, attempt to give some true account of the beginnings of man and of the world. Such are the tales of Prometheus, of the Under-World of the Zuni, the Midgard and Yggdrasil stories of the North.... History, then, appears early as a consciously separate field of human knowledge. Among children we find the same fact. From the age of seven onward we find them inquiring after time, cause and effect, the social unit, and the truthful record,--that is, all the elements of history lie within the field of the child's curiosity.... [Thus] history is a suitable subject for children from the age of seven at least. (Barnes, 1896-97/1903a, p. 89)

In the sixth recommendation, Barnes (1896-97/1903a) alludes to her scientific historical method, suggesting that it is the superior of the lot and therefore should be reserved for the students in later stages of development. She begins to use her study of the historic sense of "savages" (p. 91) as a source for curriculum content, implying that the best historical material for children in a particular culture-epoch is primary source material generated by tribes, races, or cultures that allegedly belong to the same culture-epoch as the children. In the passage below, she acknowledges that the material belonging to the most evolved culture-epoch (i.e., her period of history in the United States) is still being developed. At the same time, she suggests that the more evolved critical historic sense is developing along with the materials:
   As to the forms of history, we have seen that critical history
   develops last in the history of the race, being preceded by
   beautiful history, moral history, and mnemonic history.... With
   children we see that history finds natural expression in stories,
   picture, dramatic plays and poems, with or without a moral. From
   both these sets of facts I conclude that we should seek our history
   for children in Plutarch, Homer, and Shakespeare, before seeking it
   in edited documents with notes and criticisms of the modern school
   of history.... [These authors] give us plenty of appropriate
   material. The scientific forms [of history] must wait on the
   development of material, and also on the development of the
   critical sense; that is, until the ages of twelve and above. (p.

Perhaps, in Mary Barnes' mind, human beings were evolving in front of her eyes, and through her teaching she was playing an active role in their evolution. Perhaps she saw her history books that were intended for eighth grade children and that covered history from 1000 B.C. to the present (Monteverde, 1999) as contributions to a final superior or scientific chapter of human evolution. This interpretation is supported by material found toward the end of the article in which she seems to be describing her work, and her tendency to focus on primary source material, directly:

At the age of fourteen or fifteen another sort of work should appear. Original sources should still be used . these sources should illustrate, however, not the picture of human society moving before us in a long panorama, but should give us the opportunity to study the organization, thought, feeling, of a time as seen in its concrete embodiments, its documents, monuments, men, and books. Now come the statesmen, thinkers, poets, as successors to the explorers and fighters of the earlier period. (Barnes, 1896-97/1903a, pp. 92-93)

Here we also find statements that, at first glance, appear advanced or ahead of their time:
   Sources ... should still be used, but used with reflection; and the
   children should be encouraged not only to understand and remember
   them, but to interpret and criticise [sic] them. They should learn
   to read with increasing accuracy and fulness [sic] between the
   lines for the life and thought of the people they study, and for
   the standpoint of the narrator. They may also be led ... to answer
   the question: How do we know that this is true? (p. 93)

However, in the context of recapitulation theory, terms such as "interpret" and "criticise" inevitably take on meanings that are narrower and more judgmental than the meanings they would carry today in a similar context. In the passage above, Barnes probably does not mean children should be encouraged to analyze and evaluate primary source material on the children's (or material's) own terms. Instead, she is likely stating students should be encouraged to judge and find inferiorities and deficiencies with primary source material when compared with the accomplishments of Western Civilization, in general, and the United States, in particular, in the way that Barnes, herself, did. Regardless of which interpretation you accept in this particular situation, Mary Barnes' work stands as a clear example of recapitulation theory's direct material presence in the curriculum.


A consideration of the "historical motive" (Blumenfeld-Jones, 2004, p. 128) of Mary Barnes's work--specifically recapitulation theory--pro vides a solution to the conundrum identified by Monteverde (1999). Of course, as Wraga (2006) points out, any interpretation of a scholar's career illuminates some dimensions of it and eclipses others. Gadamer's notion of the incompleteness of understanding concurs that no one assessment could sum up the whole truth of Barnes's career or the time in which she lived. We offer this interpretation to both challenge and extend previous considerations of the life and work of Mary Sheldon Barnes and, we hope, to "enhance appreciation of the sheer complexity of the past" (p. 1097).

Monteverde (1999) states that Barnes "suggested that students use primary sources inductively as raw material to construct their own knowledge, conclusions, and interpretations of the past" (p. 18) even as her "tacit worldview ... blinded her to ... paradoxes in her thinking" (p. 19). But, while Barnes's emphasis on primary source material (and de-emphasis on author narrative) may have been innovative, her innovations stopped there. Barnes appears to have been interested in her students' "knowledge, conclusions, and interpretations" only if they conformed to a theoretical framework that was at once sexist, racist, anti-child, nationalistic, and invisible to those who were unaware of it because it was assumed to be true. (2) The ultimate irony in Mary Barnes' life work may not be, as Monteverde suggests, that she encouraged her students to reach for intellectual freedom that she, herself, was unable to obtain, but that Barnes, as a woman in late nineteenth century America, enjoyed unparalleled freedoms in her life that she used to disseminate a "scientifically-based" ideology that reduced women to over-grown, emotional children.

That she did so, however, is almost unremarkable in light of the way recapitulation theory permeated the zeitgeist of her time. According to Ross (1972), the timeframe for child study continued for more than 2 decades, from 1883 when G. Stanley Hall published "The Contents of Children's Minds," until the early 1900s. However, this timeframe does not take into account that recapitulation theory "had been widely accepted as a valid scientific principle from at least the seventeenth century on" (Kliebard, 1986, p. 45). It also fails to note the importance of the decades leading up to Hall's publication, during which recapitulation theory gained currency.3 Significantly, it also neglects child study's legacy, which is detectable in many "common-sense" public school practices of today (see Egan, 2002), thus accounting for the eerie echo of familiarity we sensed from Barnes's texts.

In the face of the unprecedented worldwide human suffering, sociopolitical upheaval, and industrial progress, recapitulation theory offered the promise of certainty and order. It offered a place for everyone and everyone a place, within nice, neat "scientifically" revealed twin hierarchies with light-skinned, Northern Europeans at the top of both. Unfortunately, the theory was little more than a narcissistic projection--a picture of Dorian Gray--that, under the banner of science, at once justified oppression and shielded oppressors from seeing its human cost. Even as the details of recapitulation theory have faded from memory, the scientism spawned by the theory has not. Herbert Spencer's unconditional faith in science to solve all social and educational problems lives on today in high-stakes testing, "scientifically-based research," and "adequate" yearly progress. Although the whereabouts of Dorian Gray's picture have long been forgotten, its legacy continues.


Barnes, E. (1896-97). Studies in education. Standford, CA: Stanford University.

Barnes, M. S. (1896). Studies in historic method. Boston: D. C. Heath.

Barnes, M. S. (1903a). The historic sense among children. In E. Barnes (Ed.), Studies in education: A series of ten numbers devoted to child-study and the history of education (Vol. 1, pp. 43-52, 83-93). Standford, CA: Stanford University. (Original work published 1896-97)

Barnes, M. S. (1903b). The historic sense among primitive peoples. In E. Barnes (Ed.), Studies in education: A series of ten numbers devoted to child-study and the history of education (Vol. 1, pp. 29-40). Standford, CA: Stanford University. (Original work published 1896-97)

Blumenfeld-Jones, D. (2004). Dance curriculum then and now: A critical historical-hermeneutic evaluation. In W. M. Reynolds & J. A. Webber (Eds.), Expanding curriculum theory: Dis/positions and lines of flight. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Brooks, N. J. (2000). Re/searching the Reconceptualization: A hermeneutic inquiry (Doctoral dissertation, Oklahoma State University, 2000). Dissertation Abstracts International, 61, 3450.

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education. New York: Macmillan.

Egan, K. (2002). Getting it wrong from the beginning: Our progressivist inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Gadamer, H.-G. (1997). Truth and method (2nd, Rev. ed.) (J. Weinsheimer & D. G. Marshall, Trans.). New York: Continuum. (Original work published 1960)

Gallagher, S. (1992). Hermeneutics and education. Albany: State University of New York.

Gould, S. J. (1996). The mismeasure of man. New York: W. W. Norton.

Keohane, R. E. (1971). Barnes, Mary Downing Sheldon. In E. T. & J. W. James (Eds.), Notable American women, 1607-1950: A biographical dictionary (pp. 92-93). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kliebard, H. M. (1986). The struggle for the American curriculum: 1893-1958. New York: Routledge.

Kogler, H. H. (1999). The power of dialogue: Critical hermeneutics after Gadamer and Foucault. (P. Hendrickson, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: MIT. (Original work published 1992)

Laverty, S. M. (2003). Hermeneutic phenomenology and phenomenology: A comparison of historical and methodological considerations. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 2(3), Article 3. Retrieved June 14, 2006, from

McAninch, S. A. (1990). The educational theory of Mary Sheldon Barnes: Inquiry learning as indoctrination in history education. Educational Theory, 40(1), 45-52.

Monteverde, F. E. (1999). Considering the source: Mary Sheldon Barnes. In M. S. Crocco & O. L. Davis, Jr (Eds.), "Bending the future to their will": Civic women, social education, and democracy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Reynolds, W. (1989). Reading curriculum theory: The development of a new hermeneutic. New York: Peter Lang.

Ross, D. (1972). G. Stanley Hall: The psychologist as prophet. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Sheldon, M. D. (1886). Studies in general history. Boston: Heath.

Spencer, H. (1920). Education: Intellectual, moral, and physical. New York: D. Apple ton. (Original work published 1861)

Tanner, D., & Tanner, L. (1990). History of the school curriculum. New York: Macmillan.

Wraga, W. G. (2006). Progressive pioneer: Alexander James Inglis (1879-1924) and American secondary education. Teachers College Record, 108, 1080-1105.


(1.) Preunderstanding is defined by (Gadamer, 1960/1997) as the traditions in which our attempts at understanding are embedded. For explication of the potential for philosophical hermeneutics to be emancipatory, see Gallagher (1992) and Kogler (1992/1999).

(2.) Gould (1996) notes, "E. D. Cope, the celebrated American paleontologist who elucidated the mechanism of recapitulation . identified four groups of lower human forms on this criterion: nonwhite races, all women, southern as opposed to northern European whites, and lower classes within superior races" (p. 144).

(3.) Beginning in the 1850s, Herbert Spencer (1861/1920) had begun calling for further investigation of recapitulation theory in the series of essays that became his famous book, Education: Intellectual, Moral, Physical. In addition, Kliebard (1986) notes the boost that Darwin's work gave to the theory's widespread acceptance.
COPYRIGHT 2008 Information Age Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:PART I
Author:Welsh, Benjamin H.; Brooks, Nancy J.
Publication:Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Previous Article:Chapter 7: how doctoral mentoring supported a cultural transformation from peripheral observer to active learner: learning to teach and research from...
Next Article:Chapter 9: citizens of today and tomorrow: an exploration of preservice social studies teachers' knowledge and their professors' experiences with...

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters