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Undergraduate Researchers

William RiceWilliam Rice, Economics

“The Humble Beginnings of Public Education”

Many people in this country take for granted the immense benefit that public schooling provides for the citizens of the United States. Even those of us who have been instructed in the public fashion are not privy to the processes by which universal education came into fruition. This research investigates the driving factors behind what caused public institutions for education to first be established in eighteenth century England. When taking a close look at the underlying themes, one soon realizes that these schools were being created for a number of reasons other than solely the betterment of youth. From powerful bureaucrats stroking their already enormous egos, to the devout Christians attempting to bolster their chances of receiving a heavenly reward; the incentives that eventually led to the expansion of public schooling are diverse and in some instances, ethically questionable. This presentation will feature leading figures that both supported and opposed the creation of public schooling in eighteenth century England. Specific examples may be selected from Mandeville’s writings and those of Sarah Trimmer. This presentation aims to convey the conflicting motivations behind the origins of public education in the world’s first industrial nation.


What research experiences have you had?
I have spent the past year researching the driving factors that brought about the creation of widespread public education in 18th Century England

How did you find the research opportunity?
I met with my economics professor privately, as we were speaking about our academic interests this opportunity presented itself.

Who did you work with on this project?
Professor David Mitch PhD

Was this your first independent research project?
No, last year in high school I researched the effects of licensing vs. non-licensing legal cases involving landlords and tenants.

Do you get course credit for this work? Paid? How much time do you put into it?
I am paid for this work. I put in between 12-16 hours of work per week, most of that is spent reading through 18th-19th Century texts.

What academic background did you have before you started?
I have always loved studying European history, but never specifically England during this time period. So I had some general knowledge about what was occurring in Europe at the time but not many specific details.

How did you learn what you needed to know to be successful in this project?
I spent time with my advisor at the Library of Congress and in his office discussing the methods he would like me to use to find the information that would be most useful to him.

What was the hardest part about your research?
There was a lot of reading to do. Being accurate in addition to balancing the time needed for research with time needed to focus on my studies was difficult at a few points during the year. Dr. Mitch was flexible and understanding during stressful times in the semester such as finals week.

What was the most unexpected thing?
How much fun reading such old texts could be! I believe that the work I have done has improved my writing as well as my vocabulary.

Is this the first time you have applied to present at URCAD? How did you find out about applying to present your work? Are you excited?
Yes, it is the first time that I have taken part in URCAD. Dr. Mitch suggested the idea to me. I cannot wait to make my presentation. I thoroughly enjoy speaking in front of crowds.

How does this research experience relate to your work in other classes?
It has helped me to improve my writing which has proven to be extremely useful in my Constitutional Law class.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Get involved as soon as possible and try something new. You never know what kind of interesting material you will get involved with!

What are your career goals?
I will graduate with a degree in economics and a minor in legal policy. I plan to attend UB Law and practice locally. I love Baltimore and there is nowhere else that I would rather live!

What are you doing next for research?
Potentially doing more work with Dr. Mitch or working for WR Grace over the summer time as a paralegal intern.

What else are you involved in on campus?
I am a Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar, I have been offered a job as a residential assistant next year, and I volunteer at a local aftercare program. In my spare time I play club as well as intramural soccer.

3/28/2013