Earl Barnes


In 1891, Earl Barnes became head of the Department of the History and Art of Education, one of the 21 original departments at the fledgling Leland Stanford University, now called Stanford. He had five students enrolled in his major. He established a practice school for child study at Stanford in 1892.

Barnes became best known in his role as teacher educator, as a contributor to the child study movement, a movement that occurred around the turn of the 20th century. During this time teachers and researchers collaborated in the study of children's development. Barnes was a strong advocate of the movement, lecturing in nearly every city in California on topics related to child study. He wrote several volumes on child-study topics that contained the results of his and others' studies of children. He also lectured throughout the US and England, working or organize new child study groups. In 1896, the second year of the National Education Associations division of Child Study, Barnes served as its president.

During the school year of 1892, the Oakland Public Schools reported that teachers were actively engaged in studies organized by Barnes. He first lectured to the teachers, outlining the subject, and then he distributed syllabi that they were instructed to fill out. The teachers then responded the syllabi and sent the papers back to Barnes. He and his students worked over the material, met with the teachers again, and discussed the results. Data were reported not only for Oakland, but schools in Monterey, Santa ana, San Mateo, Fresno, Madera, Sand Bernadino, Riverside, and El Dorado Counties (Dutton, 1945, p. 31).

Data collected over a period of time included: 37,500 definitions given by children in response to Binet intelligence test items, 15000 children's drawings, 7000 papers on the historical sense of children, 3000 papers on children's rights, 1,200 compositions on heaven and hell, 4,000 papers describing punishment, 2000 on observations, 3,000 comparisons of horse and cow, 5,000 papers on inference, 3,000 descriptions of children' ambitions, 1,200 tests on poor spellers, 1,200 color tests, 2,000 compositions on fear (Barnes, 1895).

Barnes described the child study movement as follows:

Child-study as we understand it is not a pure science at all. We are trying to use some of the tools of pure science. Child-study is an applied science; it is prosecuted for the most part by parents and teachers who want knowledge that can be used in the evelopment of the children for whose future happiness and usefulness they are immediately responsible.

Mary Sheldon Barnes, Earl's wife was also an academic in the education department of Stanford.

Writings of Earl Barnes, arranged chronologically

Barnes, Earl (Editor) (1890-1897) Studies in Education, Volume 1.

Barnes, Earl (Editor) (1902). Studies in Education, Volume 2. (Book includes ten studies on children's drawings.)

Barnes, Earl (1902). The present and future of child study in America. Barnes Studies in Education, Vol 1, 363-372.

Barnes, Earl (1903). A study based on children of a state. Proceedings of the National Education Association, 754-761.

Barnes, Earl (1903). Two child study papers. Kindergarten Magazine, 16, 26-31.

Barnes, Earl (1908) Thought and Things, Vols. I. and 2

Barnes, Earl (1914). The psychology of childhood and youth: Outlines of thirty lectures. New York: B. W. Huebsch.

Barnes, Earl (1915). The celibate women today. NY.

Writings about Earl Barnes

Dutton, Wilbur Harvey (1945). The child study movement in America from its origin (1880). To the organization of the Progressive Education Association. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford, CA: Stanford University.