Bureaucracy: North Texas State Normal College, Quarterly Bulletins, 1903-1904

North Texas State Normal College, Quarterly Bulletins. 1903-1904.

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The four bulletins bound within this volume were issued by the North Texas State Normal School between December 1903 and July 1904. The bulletins detailed institutional policies, including information about costs, admissions requirements, curricula, the normal school’s mission and history, summer school, entrance examinations, and personnel. Although primarily intended to catalogue the school’s policies, the bulletins served a number of complicated functions, perhap the most important of which was to serve as marketing materials. Bulletins were distributed to schools, businesses, and government agencies throughout the state and surrounding areas to demonstrate the strengths of the school, including “moral and religious influences,” the extent of library and laboratory equipment, the credentials of faculty and administrators, the credentials of faculty and administrators, and educational philosophy. This information, it was hoped, would impress people who would then encourage potential students to attend.      

In addition, this series of bulletins provides some interesting glimpses into the ongoing efforts to establish the institution’s credentials as a high quality teacher-training institution. According to the opening historical sketch in the December 1903 bulletin, North Texas State Normal was created in 1899 by legislative enactment. This statement is both true and false. In fact, a private normal college had been founded on the same site in 1891. Over the course of approximately a decade, the school struggled to recruit students, and it changed hands a number of times. In 1893, a state senator introduced legislation to allow the normal college to offer state-sanctioned teaching certificates, thus making the school a semi-state school.  By 1899, recruitment continued to lag, and state and local officials lobbied to convince the Texas Legislature to make North Texas Normal College an official state normal school--hence the 1899 birthdate for the school (Gammel 1902). However, while the vote was passed, no funds were allocated, so the school remained in private control until 1901 when the state of Texas took full control of the school’s administration, making 1901 the actual origins of the state-administered institution. By marking 1899 as the date of North Texas Normal’s official creation, the 1903-1904 bulletins officially separated the current institution from its private predecessor, despite the fact that the university occupied the same physical structure. The goal, of course, was to emphasize the school’s state credentials and downplay its historical (and disreputable) existence as a private normal college.

These bulletins also situated the normal school within a long institutional tradition. While under private control, the institution had been labeled a “normal college,” and it offered two different curriculums. One was “collegiate,” which meant that students took a classical college course based on Latin and Greek. The other curriculum was “normal,” which meant that it focused strictly on teacher training. A normal school education led to what was essentially a professional degree, as opposed to an academic degree. When the state took control of the school in 1901, however, the college curriculum was disbanded and the school became exclusively a normal school. In the December 1903 bulletin, the mission statement asserts, “The Normal is neither a college nor a university” (3). The next issue, dated February  1904, provides an extended history of normal school traditions dating back to the sixteenth century Europe is provided (3-4). This history serves again to distance North Texas State Normal from its first decade in existence while at the same time establishing it as part of a centuries-long tradition of educative excellence.

At each of these steps, the bulletins serve as concrete evidence of the institution’s credentials as a reputable teacher training school, which could therefore be trusted to credential students as reputable teachers.