So what’s a Normal School?
It doesn’t mean normal in the sense of average; it means normal in the sense of setting an excellent model -or norm- for other schools.
According to the 1988 edition of the MORRIS DICTIONARY OF WORD AND PHRASE ORIGINS :
Normal Schools derive their name from the French phrase ecole normale. These teaching – training institutions , the first of which was established in France by the Brothers of the Christian Schools in 1685, were intended to set a pattern, establish a “norm”after which all other schools would be modeled. The first normal school in America was established in Vermont in 1823. The name fell out of favor toward the end of the 1920’s. Most such institutions changed their names to “teachers colleges” during the 1930’s. After World War II many “Teachers Colleges” dropped “teacher” from their names and became “State” colleges. This change in name reflected a broader curriculum that no longer centered solely on teaching. Many of these colleges, eventually changed their names entirely, as Kean did.
Kean University was founded in April 1855 in Newark, New Jersey, as the Newark Normal School, a Saturday morning school initially established for the exclusive purpose of being a teacher education college for the educators of the city of Newark. The university was founded by Stephen Congar, Newark’s Superintendent of Schools, who founded the Newark Normal School with the goal of ensuring the continued improvement of the city’s schools through quality teaching. The Normal School was designed to improve the skills of the teachers that Congar correctly viewed as lacking in formal training . Newark Normal School was the first Normal School created in New Jersey, and one of the earliest in the nation. The inaugural class consisted of 85 students, mostly women and Newark High School alumni.
In 1863 the Normal School students became formally required to teach in Newark Public Schools after graduation. In 1879 the Normal School program was extended to one year, and in 1888 to two years. The first classes of the Normal School met at Newark High School, then located on Washington and Linden Streets in Newark. In 1878, the Normal School moved to Market Street School for about two decades before moving back to Newark High School in 1899. In 1898 the curriculum of the college was drastically revised in an effort to have teachers “professionalized” and enhance the status of the institution.
In 1913 the state took control of the college and the school was renamed the New Jersey State Normal School at Newark. The school moved to a new building at Fourth Avenue and Belleville Avenue ( now known as Broadway). This new building replaced the late 18th century Kearny homestead where Civil War General Philip Kearny was spent much of his boyhood. In 1917, during World War I, the Normal School faculty and students worked in war related fundraising and relief efforts.
In 1928, the Normal School program was extended to three years. In 1934 the Normal School became a four year college and the State Board of Education authorized the Normal School to grant bachelor’s degrees- a Bachelor of Science in Education.
In 1937 the college was renamed the New Jersey State Teachers College at Newark and remained in the Broadway building until 1958, when it moved to the current Union, New Jersey campus.
In 1959, the institution changed its name to Newark State College completing its transformation from a college of education to a comprehensive institute of higher education.
1973 marked the year Newark State College became Kean College of New Jersey.
On September 26, 1997, Kean College Became Kean University. Kean has grown to become the third largest institution of higher learning in the State of New Jersey, after Rutgers University and Montclair State University.
The photo in this blog shows the Class of 1923 assembled on the roof of the Broadway campus in Newark.