The man who taught millions of Americans to read before being forgotten

By Jess McHugh for The Washington Post

When an Ohio publisher released William Holmes McGuffey’s school primers in 1836 and 1837, McGuffey was an ancient languages professor at a rural college.

He quickly became an influential voice in the 19th-century common school movement, and his McGuffey Readers became something more: books that educated millions of Americans.

Over the course of the next 100 years, nearly every president as well as influential figures from Henry Ford to Laura Ingalls Wilder learned to read from McGuffey’s primers. Yet today, McGuffey is hardly a household name outside of conservative Christian home-schooling circles.

Robert Frost wrote this masterpiece in about 20 minutes. It belongs to all of us now.

McGuffey was a purist — to his detractors, an extremist — a Calvinist preacher who believed that dancing was a sin and once expelled so many students that come springtime, there was only one senior left to graduate.

Read more here.

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