Monday, December 12, 2011

William McGuffey - McGuffey's Readers

Reverend William Holmes McGuffey (1800 - 1873) was a preacher, professor at the University of Virginia, and an educational reformer. Furthermore, he was president of Ohio University and department chairman at the Miami University of Ohio. As author of McGuffey's Reader, he became known as “The Schoolmaster of the Nation.” William McGuffey was the gentleman responsible for creating the first teacher's association in the Ohio Valley.

The first edition of the McGuffey's Reader was published in 1836. It was the pillar of public education throughout America until 1920. 125 million copies of the McGuffey's Readers have been sold as of 1963. Hence, it has become one of the most influential textbooks in the history of American education.

He designed his textbooks to “fit the child's education to the child's world.” Furthermore, McGuffey sought to build the child's character as well as his or her vocabulary. One hundred and twenty-two million copies of the McGuffey's Readers have been sold within seventy-five years. His readers which promote a theistic Calvinist worldview continue to be used in some public schools today. Since 1961, 30,000 Readers have sold each year. As found in the New England Primer, the McGuffey's Readers encourage the ideas of salvation, righteousness, and piety.

Other than the Holy Bible, the McGuffey's Readers “represent the most significant force in the framing of our national morals and tastes.”

McGuffey wrote these remarks in the forward of his reader:

“The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.”

Furthermore, he declared:

“The Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus are not only basic but plenary.”

From the Preface of the Fourth Reader:

“From no source has the author drawn more copiously, in his selections, than from the sacred Scriptures. For this, he certainly apprehends no censure. In a Christian country, that man is to be pitied, who at this day, can honestly object to imbuing the minds of youth with the language and spirit of the Word of God...”

John Westerhoff III in his work “McGuffey and His Readers” declared:

“From the First to the Fourth Reader, belief in the God of the Old and New Testament is assumed. When not mentioned directly, God is implied: 'You cannot steal the smallest pin...without being seen by the eye that never sleeps.' More typically, however, lessons make direct references to the Almighty.: “God makes the little lambs bring forth wool, that we may have clothes to keep us warm...All that live get life from God...The humble child went to God in penitence and prayer...All who take care of you and help you were sent by God. He sent his Son to show you his will, and to die for your sake.”
“When we investigate the content of McGuffey's Readers, three dominant images of God emerge. God is creator, preserver, and governor.”

Evening Prayer” is found in the Eclectic First Reader: Lesson 37.

“At the close of the day, before you go to sleep, you should not fail to pray to God to keep you from sin and harm. You ask your friends for food, and drink, and books, and clothes; and when they give you these things, you thank them, and love them for the good they do you. So you should ask your God for those things which he can give you, and which no one else can give you.” 
“You should ask him for life, and health, and strength; and you should pray to him to keep your feet from the ways of sin and shame. You should thank him for all his good gifts; and learn, while young, to put your trust in him; and the kind care of God will be with you, both in your youth and in your old age.”

The preface to the 1837 Eclectic Third Reader states:

“In making [my] selections, [I have] drawn from the purest fountains of English literature...For the copious extracts made from the Sacred Scripture, [I make] no apology.”
“Indeed, upon a review of the work, [I am] not sure but an apology may be due for [my] not having still more liberally transferred to [my] pages the chaste simplicity, the thrilling pathos, the living descriptions, and the matchless sublimity of the sacred writings.”
“From no source has the author drawn more copiously than from the Sacred Scriptures. For this [I] certainly apprehend no censure. In a Christian country, that man is to be pitied, who, at this day, can honestly object to imbuing the minds of youth with the language and spirit of the Word of God.”

Extracts from McGuffey's Eclectic Third Reader 1837:

1. The design of the Bible is evidently to give us correct information concerning the creation of all things, by the omnipotent Word of God; to make known to us the state of holiness and happiness of our first parents in paradise, and their dreadful fall from that condition by transgression against God, which is the original cause of all our sin and misery...
3. The Scriptures are especially designed to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus; to reveal to us the mercy of the Lord in him; to form our minds after the likeness of God our Savior; to build up our souls in wisdom and faith, in love and holiness; to make us thoroughly furnished unto good works, enabling us to glorify God on earth; and, to lead us to an imperishable inheritance among the spirits of just men made perfect, and finally to be glorified with Christ in heaven.”

The character of Jesus Christ is taught in the 21st lesson of McGuffey's Eclectic Third Reader.

"The morality taught by Jesus Christ was purer, sounder, sublimer and more perfect than had ever before entered into the imagination, or proceeded from the lips of men.”

The National Education Association honored Reverend William Holmes McGuffey at his death. This resolution was issued on August 7, 1873, in Elmira, New York.

“In the death of William H. McGuffey, late Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Virginia, the Association feels that they have lost one of the great lights of the offices as teacher of common schools, college professor, college president, and as author of textbooks; his almost unequaled industry; his power in the lecture room; his influence upon his pupils and community, his care for the pu8blic interests of education; his lofty devotion to duty; his conscientious Christian character – all these have made him one of the noblest ornaments of our profession in this age, and entitled to the grateful remembrance of this Association and of the teachers of America.”
Elmira, New York, August 7, 1873.

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