A Virtuous Education: William Penn’s Vision for Philadelphia Schools

A Virtuous Education: William Penn's Vision for Philadelphia SchoolsA Virtuous Education: William Penn’s Vision for Philadelphia Schools

By William C. Kashatus
Forward by David W. Hornbeck

224 pp. Photographs, bibliography, notes, appendices, index
ISBN: 0-87574-927-5 $15.00 soft cover 1997.

Winner of the 1997 Critics’ Choice Award, American Educational Studies Association.


Solidly persuasive, A Virtuous Education argues that Quaker involvement in creating Philadelphia’s public schools was directly tied to the market relations, patterns of behavior and moral conventions of an emerging market culture as well as William Penn’s vision for a universal compulsory education, which was grounded in the Christian ethic.

By examining the minutes and personal correspondence of three educational boards — the Overseers of the Friends Public School, the Adelphi Board of Managers and the Public School Controllers — Kashatus describes how theological disagreements and leadership struggles in the Society of Friends placed an indelible stamp on the origins of public schooling in Philadelphia.

A Virtuous Education makes a powerful contribution to a small literature that takes religion seriously as an influence on the behavior of historical actors without ignoring the social, economic, and cultural setting within which those actors function.


“In A Virtuous Education, Kashatus challenges us to reincorporate moral and religious beliefs into educational debates. He provides us with a well researched and written historical narrative of how one American city, during a period of rapid and dramatic economic and social change, religious, moral, and civic considerations constructively intertwined and contributed to the common good.” – History of Education Quarterly

Kashatus’ exhaustive research, leading to a clear articulation of Philadelphia’s social history, provides a view of Quaker concern for education that is both a sobering challenge and an inspiring vision.” – Quaker History

“Kashatus has written a history with unmistakable implications for a city and a time that disdain public spending on schools, scorn generous impulses toward children, and impede all creative efforts at reform.  It is a disconcerting history, reminding us that we have always failed our children.  It is, at the same time, a heartening history, restoring the creativity and commitment that people of good will summoned in an earlier time of crisis and suggesting the specific ways in which they went about their work.  We always need such histories.  We have rarely needed them more than we do now.” – Michael W. Zuckerman, University of Pennsylvania

Kashatus has meticulously documented Quaker influence on public education in Philadelphia.” – Friends Journal