In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section History of Early Childhood Education in the United States

  • Introduction
  • General Overview
  • The History of Kindergarten in the United States
  • The History of Early Childhood Education in the United States from 1920 to 1929
  • The History of Early Childhood Education in the United States from 1930 to 1949
  • The History of Early Childhood Education in the United States from 1950 to 1959
  • The History of Early Childhood Education in the United States from 1960 to 1969
  • The History of Early Childhood Education in the United States from 1970 to 1979
  • The History of Early Childhood Education in the United States from the 1980s to the 2020s
  • The History of African American/Black Early Childhood Education in the United States
  • The History of Asian American Early Childhood Education in the United States
  • The History of Hispanic Early Childhood Education in the United States
  • The History of American Indian (Indigenous) Early Childhood Education in the United States
  • The History of Early Childhood Education in the United States in Early Childhood Teacher Education Textbooks
  • Early Childhood Professional Education in the United States
  • The History of Technology in Early Childhood Education in the United States

Education History of Early Childhood Education in the United States
by
Blythe F. Hinitz, Betty Liebovich
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 January 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 17 January 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0295

Introduction

The history of early childhood education in the United States (US) is multifaceted. This bibliographical account of early childhood education and programs offers a glimpse into the range of approaches taken in the US to provide young children access to learning environments and services. The resources provided demonstrate the emergence of a diverse system unique to the US, in which education is a function of individual states rather than the federal government. Therefore, early childhood education is overseen by a variety of different entities, stemming from several distinctive philosophies, leading to a multiplicity of theoretical foundations, standards, regulations, curricula, and practices. Early childhood educators and scholars may use this bibliography to gain a deeper understanding of early childhood practice in a contemporary learning environment by exploring the roots of the ideas that inform teaching and learning in early childhood. By engaging with this historical account of early childhood education and programming, readers may become more familiar with the network of ideas that informs their own philosophy of teaching young children. The topics are designed to highlight the histories of the cultures served by early childhood education and the impetus for focused attention on young children in specific eras.

General Overview

The history of early childhood education in the United States, like the country’s population, has global roots. These are described in detail in History of Early Childhood Education, which expands on what early childhood education (ECE) historians already know, at least in part. Many subcultures of US society are brought to life as the deep tradition and the creative knowledge base of the early care and education community are portrayed in Lascarides and Hinitz 2011. Historians of early childhood education in the US have tended to focus on specific programs or people. For this reason, there are few comprehensive histories, and even fewer that discuss historical research in early childhood education. Notable exceptions include Lascarides and Hinitz 1993, Beatty 1995, Lascarides and Hinitz 2011, Hinitz 2013, and Ranck 2015. This bibliography of the history of early childhood education in the United States is divided into chronological and cultural sections. The chronological section begins with the founding of kindergartens and addresses program development from the 1920s through the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s to the present. The cultural segment of this bibliography includes sections on The History of African American/Black Early Childhood Education in the United States, The History of Asian American Early Childhood Education in the United States, The History of Hispanic Early Childhood Education in the United States, and The History of American Indian (Indigenous) Early Childhood Education in the United States. See also the Oxford Bibliographies in Education article “American Indian Education,” particularly the subsection on “The Role of Early Childhood Education.” Additional sections addressing the history of technology in early education, the integration of the history of early childhood education in teacher education textbooks, and the history of early childhood professional education in the United States are included in this bibliography.

  • Beatty, Barbara. 1995. Preschool education in America: The culture of young children from the colonial era to the present. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

    This political and program history includes three detailed chapters about all aspects of early private and public kindergarten programs in the US, the free movement, and the establishment of public kindergartens. Descriptions of the European roots of early childhood education, and the development of family, infant, and nursery schools constitute the remaining chapters. Sixteen pages of photographs enhance the written material. The text is written in a way that makes readers feel a part of the history of early childhood education.

  • Hinitz, Blythe Farb, ed. 2013. The hidden history of early childhood education. New York: Routledge.

    This book focuses on the story of programs and people who have been marginalized or ignored by standard histories. Primary sources provide an in-depth view of early childhood education. In “Glimpses of Past Practice,” the authors explore the education of Quaker, Japanese American internee, and home-schooled children. On-campus schooling and education during the Eisenhower administration are discussed. “Portraits of ECE leaders” includes Oneida Cockrell, Lula Sadler Craig, Patty Smith Hill, James L Hymes Jr., Constance Kamii, Betty Kirby, Margaret Naumburg, and Evangeline Ward.

  • Lascarides, V. Celia, and Blythe Hinitz. 1993. Teaching the history of early childhood education: Materials devoted to history. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education 14.3: 24–26.

    DOI: 10.1080/1090102930140307

    This study reviews print sources available to teach early education history. Criteria included: comprehensiveness of the material, in-depth versus superficial account, facts and interpretation versus opinion, historical period covered, graphics, extensiveness of the bibliography, and how the historical material was related to current thought and practice. There is little mention of US pioneers’ contributions, and no mention of programs for ethnic populations. More autobiographical accounts and use of archival resources are suggested.

  • Lascarides, V. Celia, and Blythe F. Hinitz. 2011. History of early childhood education. New York: Routledge.

    This book draws from primary sources and historical literature to tell the story of early education in the US. It traces the roots from ancient Greece and Rome to Europe, then describes the integration of the theories and programs into methodology in the US. The development of the kindergarten, nursery school, and child-care branches of the field from inception through the 1960s is explained. Biographies of contributors to the field are included. Timelines explain how some entities developed.

  • Ranck, Edna Runnels. 2015. Past as prologue: Doing historical research in early childhood education. In Handbook of research methods in early childhood education. Vol. 1. Edited by Olivia Saracho, 667–713. Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

    This chapter reviews models of historiography, including books by eleven early childhood historians, and five organizational histories. A precise description of how to conduct research includes finding sufficient primary, secondary, and tertiary sources; engaging with colleagues; finding a mentor; and identifying gaps in the literature. Details about the entities that house sources are provided. Four appendices contain an overview of writing history, characteristics of an ECE historian, how to navigate disagreements, and caveats for guarding against complications.

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