Dr. Sam Stack, a social and cultural foundations professor in the West Virginia University College of Human Resources and Education, was awarded a fellowship for his research on Appalachian progressive education.
The $2,500 research fellowship from the West Virginia Humanities Council will allow Stack to finish his book titled, “The Arthurdale Community School in Depression Era Appalachia.”
“The research fellowship will make a significant impact on my research because it is allowing me to free up time this summer to focus on writing the book,” said Stack, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction/Literacy Studies. “I am five chapters into the draft, and the fellowship provides resources to visit the Roosevelt Archives in Hyde Park, N.Y. as well as Arthurdale one more time.”
In addition to these resources, Stack visited the Center for Dewey Studies at Southern Illinois University and the National Archives in College Park, Md. for further research.
Stack began studying the Arthurdale school system in the mid-1990s while preparing his biography on Arthurdale School principal Elsie Clapp. This book will complement that biography and a collection of essays by John Dewey, edited by Stack and Douglas Simpson at Texas Tech University. Both Clapp and Dewey were instrumental in the development of the progressive education philosophies.
“Clapp was well-known for her work in rural and community education, and Dewey supported her work,” Stack said. “The teachers they brought in to Arthurdale were highly trained in progressive education.”
The progressive format of the Arthurdale School sought to connect the subject matter taught in the classroom with the identity of the residents, such as teaching trades, rather than emphasize theoretical learning. However, the subjects were not meant to prepare students with job training, but achieve an innate understanding of the people.
“The curriculum ties back to a better understanding of labor and how that makes us human,” Stack said. “We express ourselves through that labor.”
Stack’s primary research emphasis is the history of progressive education in addition to the historical view of community and democracy.
“This emphasis is the whole idea behind Arthurdale: building a community from what federal reformers felt was lost or lacking in the coal camps,” Stack said.
The West Virginia Humanities Council annually provides fellowships for individuals to pursue advanced study to enhance their capacities as teachers, scholars, and interpreters of the humanities, according to the Council’s website.
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CONTACT: Christie Zachary, Human Resources and Education