Teacher education for Americanizing immigrants in the public schools, 1871--1920: The Rhode Island normal school programs

Date of Completion

January 1995


History, United States|Education, History of|Education, Teacher Training




Today we are in a new era of immigration to the United States. Public school classrooms in southern New England and most other regions of the country, have newly arrived immigrant students. Some arrive as displaced persons and refugees. Others come to America in search of better opportunities. Now, there is renewed interest in education regarding the processes of enculturation by which newcomers to our country become United States citizens, and the methods of preparing school teachers to help socialize them into being "good" Americans.^ The literature contains many previous studies of Americanization programs in the public schools, but lacks a scholarly examination of the normal school preparation that pre-service teachers received in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to provide these socialization experiences. This inquiry, therefore, is an historical documentary case study that focuses on one specific educational aspect of the programs at one publicly-supported state normal school during a period of heavily diverse immigration.^ It examines Americanization training at the Rhode Island Normal School (RINS) from its postbellum reopening in 1871 until its metamorphosis into the Rhode Island College of Education in 1920. The researcher believes that there are significant associations for contemporary teachers and planners of Americanization programs in the documented dynamics of this earlier teacher institution.^ The study begins by introducing the research design, problem statement, research questions, and a review of related literature to help orient readers to the domain of Americanization education for immigrants and their children. Next, data are examined regarding then contemporary socio-cultural forces that would have impacted on the training of future Americanization agents at RINS. Data regarding the documented cultural diversity of RINS' own students and faculty during the period being studied are then examined. Lastly, the curriculum and instruction at RINS over the five-decade period are analyzed in order to demonstrate the relevant Americanization content. The study's findings regarding teacher preparation for Americanizing immigrant constituencies, beginning at the Rhode Island Normal School over a century ago, are interpreted in light of relevant philosophies and theories--then and now. ^