Date of Award

Fall 1975

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gillespie, Margaret

Second Advisor

Bogenschild, Erika

Third Advisor

Sturch, J. E.


This study presents a historical survey of the major movements of Early Childhood Education in the United States from the 1650's to the present time, together with child development data and learning theory which form the basic rationale of these movements. Child development data encompassing the span from birth to age six are presented with an emphasis on the importance of learning during these early years. Data were garnered from a survey and review of library holdings of treatises, essays, laws, and other documentary evidence pertaining to early childhood education in America in the areas of European influences on early childhood education; the development and establishment of the kindergarten movement; the establishment of nursery schools and day care facilities, both private and public; and recent compensatory and early intervention programs. Data pertaining to recent legislative action affecting early childhood education were requested from the Superintendent of Public Instruction of each state. Accumulated data from all sources were studied, analyzed, and reported in relation to the four previously stated areas. The emphasis which many authorities, for example, Gesell (1923) and Piaget (1963), place on the importance and influence of the first five years of growth and development on later learning is delineated and reported. The multi-dimensional nature of growth and maturation encompassing intellectual, physical, and social development is demonstrated. Evidence is presented to show that modern philosophies of early childhood education derive from those historically noted since the time of the early Greek philosophers. Further, the evolvement of many current early childhood educational practices has been traced through European as well as American history. The consensus among researchers in the field that earlier learning directly affects later learning is shown to have been influential in the development of compensatory and early intervention programs during the 1950's and 1960's. These programs illustrate the value of preschool education and its accompanying professional input for all children. Data pertaining to legislative action from the 47 responding states indicate the current interest in and growth of early childhood education. Longitudinal studies to determine the extent of influence of early childhood learning experiences upon later academic success may provide important data for future planning in the area. It would appear that studies designed to generate new model programs for early childhood education should continue.



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