The instituionalization of the public school system in Missouri: 1865-1882
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By the early 1870s, the public school system in Missouri became an embedded institution in the state's cultural and political fabric. This thesis provides an explanation of how and why Missouri powerholders solidified a government-supplemented educational system during Reconstruction, along with the strategies used to help the system weather the storm of political upheaval and citizen pushback in the decade after Reconstruction's close. The post-Civil War system initiated by state-level Radical Republicans was built on Missouri's antebellum common system, incubated in St. Louis, and in its early stages across the state prior to the conflict. The postbellum public system was a product of the Radical agenda to open publicly funded schools to children regardless of skin color, place of birth, gender, or class. Cultural mores held by some Missouri citizens--racism and anti-tax sentiment, among others--resulted in uneven application of reforms at the local level, but powerholders navigated this convoluted terrain through promotion, an emphasis on teacher professionalization, and a push for capacity expansion to further root the system in Missouri communities. The end of Radical Republican leadership in 1870 did not signal the end of the public school system; rather, spurred by urban growth, rural adaptation, and an expanding web of education-adjacent groups and businesses, public schooling survived in a post-Radical political environment. The system's institutionalization required Democrats to critique and modify within the system. This thesis argues that the survival of public schools from 1865 onward was neither assured nor even likely in Missouri, but key leadership choices and the legacy of education in St. Louis resulted in its continuance.