Jane Addams, The Public School and the Immigrant Child 1908

jane_addams.jpgJane Addams (September 6, 1860 – May 21, 1935) opened the Hull House settlement. In 1889, she and a friend, Ellen Gates Starr, rented a run-down mansion that once had belonged to a man named Charles Hull.  The Hull House was a settlement house which was created to provide community services to ease urban problems such as poverty. Inspired by Toynbee Hall, Addams, opened Hull House in a neighborhood of slums in Chicago.  Hull House communicated the cultural pluralism and the power of diversity on the school curriculum. “Her curriculum modeled how to foster intergenerational and intercultural communication, open-minded and balanced debate, and the relationship of education to community betterment” (Flinders & Thornton, 2017, p. 5-6). Through her work, Addams communicates the charm of the human form in active learning and flexible learning environments. The one thing she dreaded was if the “Settlement lose its flexibility, its power of quick adaptation, its readiness to change its methods as its environment demands” (Addams, 1910). Miss Addams and Miss Starr made speeches about the needs of the neighborhood, raised money, convinced young women of well-to-do families to help, took care of children, nursed the sick, listened to outpourings from troubled people. By its second year of existence, Hull House was host to two thousand people every week (The Nobel Peace Prize).  The Hull House and its contribution are now seen as a part of the Chicago Aesthetic, “making and creating culture should be valued in a world where there is so much unmaking and destruction” (Festival, C. H., 2015).

In the first section of Flinders & Thornton, The Curriculum Studies Reader, it includes Jane Addams’ The Public School and Immigrant Child.  In this address, given to the Annual Meeting of the National Education Association in 1908, “Addams speaks of the importance of education within the immigrant community and the role of teachers as bridges between the families of students and American society” (Jane Addams Project, 2017).  She spends the pages defending the notion of community and how it does not mean one group of people is better or held higher than another. Addams investigates what it takes for a newly arrived immigrant family to adapt to life in the United States. She pushes the beliefs of most Americans who believe that the public school is a sanctuary for immigrant children. “Many of us feel that splendid as the public schools are in their relation to the immigrant, they do not understand all of the difficulties which surround that child — all the moral and emotional perplexities which constantly harass him” (Flinders & Thornton, 2017, p. 57).  Addams speaks to the fact that bringing the immigrant child into the US public school can also split family members apart. “And yet in spite of the fact that the public school is the great savior of the immigrant district, and the one agency which inducts the children into the changed conditions of American life, there is a certain indictment which may justly be brought, in that the public school too often separates the child from his parents and widens that old gulf between fathers and sons…:” (Flinders & Thornton, 2017, p. 55). This gulf she speaks of can be language, knowledge, or expectations. As the child goes into the school, the parent is usually pushed into a job to support the family.  In this job, the parent does not learn the same elements of history or language that the student will, and thus creating this chasm. With the Hull House settlement, she tried to bring the parents and child back together to keep the social bonds strong. She stated that “it is the business of the school to give to each child the beginnings of a culture so wide and deep and universal that he can interpret his own parents and countrymen by a standard which is worldwide and not provincial” (Flinders & Thornton, 2017, p. 56).

She dreamt that the other schools would envy those institutions that contained this variety and diversity. “I believe in these people are welcomed upon the basis of the resources which they represent and the contributions which they bring, it may come to pass that these schools which deal with immigrants will find that they have a wealth of cultural and industrial materials which will make the schools in other neighborhoods positively envious” (Flinders & Thornton, 2017, p. 57).  That charm she wanted to see in humans had to do with good citizenship and taking an active part in society before whole swaths are swallowed up but industrialization and sterile gentrification.



Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull-House, with Autobiographical Notes. New York, N.Y: Penguin, 1981. Print. 

Addams, Jane. (1908). The Public School and the Immigrant Child. In D. J. Flinders & S. J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader (5th ed., pp.55-59). New York, New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Brooks, B. (2017, April 25). The Jane Addams Model. Retrieved January 26, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/opinion/the-jane-addams-model.html

Festival, C. H. (2015, November 13). The Legacy of Jane Addams and Hull House. Retrieved January 26, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfycH8Ybhzo

Flinders, D. J., & Thornton, S. J. (2017). The curriculum studies reader. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

The Public School and the Immigrant Child, July 1, 1908. Jane Addams Project (2017). Retrieved January 26, 2019, from https://digital.janeaddams.ramapo.edu/items/show/6946

The Nobel Peace Prize 1931. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2019, from https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1931/addams/biographical/

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