EDUCATION IN NEW HARMONY,INDIANA
New Harmony, Indiana was established in 1825 as an experiment in cooperative living. Robert Owen, who was a British socialist, founded the community in order to provide a model town based on the principle of common ownership.
All people were to be treated the same. Each member was to be given an equal education, this included boys as well as girls and adults as well as young children. Owen believed that education should begin in early childhood and New Harmony had one of the first infant schools in the United States. He also believed that eliminating social classes would be the answer to reforming society as a whole.
The primary groups of people involved in this experiment were the industrial and agricultural working classes. The goal of Robert Owen and his associate William MaClure was to improve the lives of the working classes through education of the group. William MaClure eliminated classical, conventional education and chose practical schooling that aimed to reform social, economic, and political conditions for his community. He hoped that these reforms would spread to a larger area over a period of time.
MaClure's system of education generally followed the method developed by Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. The Pestalozzi method of natural education had two parts, the specific method and the general method. He felt that children must feel secure before they could learn. He was a realist and he believed that children should learn through their senses, not through lecturing. Thus, he would begin with "hands on" experience called the"object lesson" and gradually expand to the general concepts.
By 1827 the experiment in New Harmony had begun to fail because of disagreements between Owen and MaClure over education and finance (some things are timeless, much of our current dilemma regarding education still involves disagreement over finance and education.)
In 1828 Owen was forced to sell New Harmony at a loss. Although the experiment was short-lived, the movement aroused public interest in education as a means to elevate and equalize social conditions.
Prepared by Vicky L. Grocke