In 1893, the National Educational Association (NEA) established the Committee of Fifteen, whose purpose was to revise the elementary curriculum in American public schools in much the same way that the NEA's Committee of Ten was revising the secondary school curriculum. Groups such as the American Herbartians, under the leadership of Francis W. Parker and Frank and Charles De Garmo, called for an elementary school curriculum that was child centered and focused on the moral development of the child. More conservative approaches, led by figures such as William Torrey Harris, argued that the curriculum should be primarily concerned with preparing the child for his or her place in society.

The arguments of the committee are important in that they reflected tensions at work within American schools ...

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