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William Torrey Harris (10 September 1835 - 5 November 1909) was an American educator, philosopher, and lexicographer.

Contents

Early life and career

Born in North Killingly, Connecticut, he attended Phillips Andover Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. He completed two years at Yale, then moved west and taught school in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1857 to 1880, There he was superintendent of schools from 1868 to 1880, and established, with Susan E. Blow, America's first permanent public kindergarten in 1873. It was in St. Louis where William Torrey Harris instituted many influential ideas to solidify both the structural institution of the public school system and the basic philosophical principles of education. His changes led to the expansion of the public school curriculum to make the high school an essential institution to the individual and to include art, music, scientific and manual studies, and was also largely responsible for encouraging all public schools to acquire a library.

Harris's St. Louis Schools were considered the some of the best in the country. His fellow educators were local farmers that immigrated in from Germany after they tried to make Germany a republic.

He founded and edited the first philosophical periodical in America, the Journal of Speculative Philosophy (1867), editing it until 1893. He was a key member of a philosophical society that, during the beginning of the American Civil War, met in St. Louis; it promoted the view that the entire unfolding was part of a universal plan, a working out of an eternal historical dialectic, as theorized by Hegel.

Harris was associated with Bronson Alcott's Concord School of Philosophy from 1880 to 1889, when he became U.S. Commissioner of Education, serving until 1906. He did his best to organize all phases of education on the principles of philosophical pedagogy as espoused by Hegel, Kant, Fichte, Fröbel, Pestalozzi and many others of idealist philosophies. He received the degree of LL.D. from various American and foreign universities.

Harris was once the United Commissioner of Education were he once almost made Hegelianism the official philosophy of American education during the late 19th centenary.

Throughout time, his influence has been only momentarily recognized, disregarded and misunderstood by historians. Harris’ extreme emphasis on discipline has become the most glaring misrepresentation of his philosophy.

In 1906 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching conferred upon him "as the first man to whom such recognition for meritorious service is given, the highest retiring allowance which our rules will allow, an annual income of $3000."

"Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual."

And in that same book:

"The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places.... It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world."

Critics[1] cite these passages to portray Harris as a proponent of self-alienation in order to better serve the great industrial nation of America. In fact, argue supporters, it can be found that quite the opposite is true of Harris when you are able to go beyond the surface of his educational philosophy. According Harris's supporters, as a devout Christian he was quite concerned with the development of morality and discipline within the individual. Harris believed those values could systematically be instilled into the pupils, promoting common goals and social cooperation, with a strong sense of respect for and responsibility towards one’s society.

He was also assistant editor of Johnson’s New Universal Cyclopaedia and editor of Appletons' International Education Series. He expanded the Bureau of Education and started graphic exhibits of the United States in international expositions.

He was responsible for introducing reindeer into Alaska so that the native whalers and trappers would have another livelihood, before they brought other species to extinction.

Harris was one of the 30 founding members of the Simplified Spelling Board, founded in 1906 by Andrew Carnegie to make English easier to learn and understand through changes in the orthography of the English language.[2]

As editor-in-chief of Webster's New International Dictionary (1909), he originated the divided page.

In the book "The Educational Philosophy of William T. Harris" by Richard D. Mosier, states that Harris forms the bridge between mechanism, associationism, and utilitriunsim of the 18th centenary with the pragmatism, experimentalism, and instrumentalism of the 20th centenary.

Works

Besides voluminous reports on educational matters, many papers contributed to the Proceedings of the American Social Science Association, and various compilations edited by him, his publications include:

See also

References

Government offices
Preceded by
Nathaniel H. R. Dawson
United States Commissioner of Education
1889 – 1906
Succeeded by
Elmer E. Brown
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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

William Torrey Harris US Commissioner of Education from 1889 to 1906.

  • Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.
    • source: The Philosophy of Education (His 1889 book)
  • The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places.... It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world.
    • source: The Philosophy of Education (His 1889 book)

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WILLIAM TORREY HARRIS (1835-1909), American educationist, was born in North Killingly, Connecticut, on the 10th of September 1835. He studied at Phillips Andover Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, and entered Yale, but left in his junior year (1857) to accept a position as a teacher of shorthand in the St Louis, Missouri, public schools. Advancing through the grades of principal and assistant superintendent, he was city superintendent of schools from 1867 until 1880. In 1858, under the stimulus of Henry C. Brockmeyer, Harris became interested in modern German philosophy in general, and in particular in Hegel, whose works a small group, gathering about Harris and Brockmeyer, began to study in 1859. From 1867 to 1893 Harris edited The Journal of Speculative Philosophy (22 vols.), which was the quarterly organ of the Philosophical Society founded in 1866. The Philosophical Society died out before 1874, when Harris founded in St Louis a Kant Club, which lived for fifteen years. In 1873, with Miss Susan E. Blow, he established in St Louis the first permanent public-school kindergarten in America. He represented the United States Bureau of Education at the International Congress of Educators at Brussels in 1880. In 1889 he represented the United States Bureau of Education at the Paris Exposition, and from 1889 to 1906 was United States commissioner of education. In 1899 the university of Jena gave him the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy for his work on Hegel. In 1906 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching conferred upon him "as the first man to whom such recognition for meritorious service is given, the highest retiring allowance which our rules will allow, an annual income of $3000." Besides being a contributor to the magazines and encyclopedias on educational and philosophical subjects, he wrote An Introduction to the Study of Philosophy (1889); The Spiritual Sense of Dante's Divina Commedia (1889); Hegel's Logic (1890); and Psychologic Foundations of Education (1898); and edited Appleton's International Education Series and 'Webster's International Dictionary. He died on the 5th of November 1909.

See Henry R. Evans, "A List of the Writings of William Torrey Harris" in the Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1907, vol. i. (Washington, 1908).


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