Project Abstract: Educating an Exceptional Empire: The Federal Government and the Challenge of Colonial Schooling, 1865-1910
Sarah Manekin

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Johns Hopkins University

Primary Discipline

Surveying the fifty years after the conclusion of the Civil War, Educating an Exceptional Empire explores the changing reasons why the United States government assumed the responsibility to educate all children under its expanding federal domain, the mechanisms it used to meet it, and the effects of its work. It examines the people at the core of federal policy creation and follows them to Alaska, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to explore the schools and school systems they worked to build. Focusing on a period in which the federal government was weak and its role in public education even weaker, my book demonstrates that the provision of schooling for children in the new possessions challenged the government’s administrative capacity, exposed the tensions inherent in transposing systems of “free” schools onto colonized peoples, and ascribed racial and political meaning onto these “new Americans.” By exploring the federal government’s efforts to spread education, my book reveals how decisions about schooling structured the state itself. In doing so, it illuminates the vital role of education in the historical development of the United States as a global power and unearths in that history the deep roots of tensions that animate contemporary education debates.
About Sarah Manekin

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