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Monday, August 19, 2013

McGuffey Readers: Pros and cons

(Public Domain)
Ever find the story line of "Dick, Jane and Sally" a bit meaningless? 

Many who agree that "See Spot run" lacks substance have remained staunch fans of the McGuffey Readers.  These all-time best-sellers (right up there with Webster's Dictionary and the Bible) have been circulating since 1836.

Wikipedia describes these textbooks as "a series of graded primers that were widely used… in American schools from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, and are still used today in some private schools and in homeschooling."

Their author, William Holmes McGuffey, had two favorite pastimes: preaching and teaching.  He had established a reputation for not only lecturing "on moral and biblical subjects," but also for teaching children of
all ages within various frontier schools.

His close friend, Harriet Beecher Stowe, recommended that he create the Readers.  Rather than focus upon simplistic rhymes, McGuffey instead chose to pass on cultural literacy through a series of "stories, poems,
essays and speeches."

So far, so good…  However, McGuffey's selections were far from pluralistic.   They strongly reflected his own Calvinistic beliefs.  Some believe that the use of these (then) public-school texts had fostered anti-Semitism via references "to Shylock and to Jews' attacking Jesus and Paul."


Copyright August 19, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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