• Identificationhttp://hdl.loc.gov/loc.afc/eadafc.af0040##
  • TitleCook County Normal School records
  • LanguageEnglish
  • OriginationCook County Normal School
  • Date1867-1896
  • Physical Description4 boxes; 1.75 linear feet
  • RepositoryChicago State University, Archives and Special Collections, Chicago, IL 60128
  • AbstractCook County Normal School was a teacher training institute designed to serve the Cook County school system. Under the leadership of Francis W. Parker it developed in the 1880s and 90s into a leading center of progressive education. The collection includes catalogs, school reports, speeches, a grade ledger, and alumni information.

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Cook County Normal School records, Chicago State University Archives and Special Collections.

Cook County Normal School was founded in 1867, largely through the initiative of John F. Eberhart, the Commissioner of Schools for Cook County. Eberhart noted that Cook County schools lagged far behind their counterparts in the city of Chicago, especially in terms of the quality and competence of instructors. He convinced the County Commissioners to hold a teacher training institute in April 1860; its success led to the widespread acceptance of the need for a permanent school to educate teachers. In March 1867 the Cook County Board of Supervisors created a Normal school at Blue Island on a two year experimental basis. Daniel S. Wentworth became the first principal.

In 1869 the school opened as a permanent institution in Englewood, then a village far beyond the outskirts of Chicago. After Wentworth died in 1883, he was replaced by Colonel Francis Wayland Parker, a towering figure in the history of American education. Parker was an educational innovator who helped design the philosophy of progressive education, which has decisively shaped American schooling over the past century. Dedicated to the proposition that the nature and interests of the child should determine curricular decisions, not vice-versa, progressive reformers from the 1890s forward tried to banish what they saw as oppressive and authoritarian standards of instruction. Parker urged teachers to grant pupils the freedom to learn from their environment, to let curiosity rather than rewards or punishments provide their motivation, and to advance American democracy by democratizing their classrooms. John Dewey wrote in The New Republic in 1930 that Parker, “more than any one person, was the father of the progressive educational movement.” Parker believed that education was the cornerstone of a democracy, and that to achieve this end rote memorization should be replaced with exploration of the environment. Parker’s Talks on Pedagogics (1894) preceded Dewey’s own School and Society by five years, and it is one of the foundational texts in the progressive movement. Parker’s methods were so novel and influential that a highly critical study of American schools conducted in 1892 and 1893 by a New York pediatrician held up Cook County Normal School as a rare example of effective pedagogy.

By the 1890s Cook County was unable to provide the requisite support for its Normal School. Since many graduates found employment in the Chicago Public School district, it was natural that the city would take over the school. In 1897 the Chicago Board of Education assumed responsibility for what was now the Chicago Normal School.

  • Subject
    • Progressive education
    • Universities and colleges—United States
    • Teachers—training of
  • Names
    • Parker, Francis W. (Francis Wayland), 1837-1902
    • Eberhart, John F.
    • Wentworth, Daniel

The collection includes a large number of course catalogs, which then were referred to as “Announcements,” especially from the 1870s. These catalogs provide extensive detail on CCNS’s curricular offerings and philosophy. It also contains reports on the Cook County schools and reports from the Board of Supervisors, historical research materials, library accession books, alumni materials, and books by and about CCNS faculty and students.

The collection is divided into two series:

  • I. Catalogs, alumni materials, administration
  • II. Books