Arising in the 19th century, common schools were the first widely accepted model for free public education in the United States. Common schools derived their name from their curricular mandate: the common branches. A major purpose of common schools was to create a common U.S. people who spoke the same language, held similar values, and embraced a shared national identity. Although later writers sometimes ascribe an aura of homogeneity to the common schools, in truth there was considerable variation among the common branches across the country. This entry discusses the formation of common schools, how the curriculum was enacted in the classroom, forces that influenced curriculum content, and how issues from the common school era have influenced contemporary curriculum studies.

Thomas Jefferson dreamed of a system ...

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