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John Swett

John Swett (Left) with John Muir - National Park Service Photo

John Swett (left) with John Muir, 1912

  • John Swett is known as the father of public school education in California. He was California's fourth Superintendent of Public Instruction, taking office in 1863 at the age of 33.
  • Swett's books, Methods of Instruction and Public Education in California set forth the educational philosophy for California's public education system.
  • John Swett founded the California Teachers Association in 1863. His call for a "teachers' institute" led to the California Educational Society, which became the California Teachers Association in 1875.
  • During his term Swett secured the passage of laws creating a state board of education, providing for teachers' institutes where poorly equipped teachers might get help, organized the schools into grades, establishing school libraries, providing for the certification of teachers, and laid out the financial basis for the support of public education. Before the close of his term he had abolished tuition and made the public schools absolutely free in all districts for at least five months each year. He succeeded in having school boards build better school houses, secured necessary increases in teachers' salaries and lengthened the school year.
  • Read John Swett's Tribute to John Muir from Century magazine.
Photograph courtesy of John Muir National Historic Site Museum Collections, U. S. National Park Service.

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