With the highest ideals: The Florida State Normal College at DeFuniak Springs, 1887-1905

Sharon Yvonne Clifford, Florida International University


The urgent need for teachers led the Florida legislature in 1887 to establish the Florida State Normal College at DeFuniak Springs. The college closed in 1905 with passage of the Buckman Act, which mandated a complete reorganization of state-supported higher education and ended coeducation for white students. This small college, open for eighteen years, was uniquely situated in time and place to examine larger questions in American educational history as well as contribute to the history of higher education in Florida, which developed differently than in other states. This historical case study used archival sources to examine this institution, and contribute to the history of the origins of Florida's system of higher education. Key questions guiding the research were the nature of the students, fundamental aspects of school life, the impact of the school on the students, and the role of the school in the development of higher education in Florida. Original sources included the Catalogs, Register and Minutes of the school. The census of 1900 was used to develop information on the backgrounds of the students. Findings were: DeFuniak Springs was chosen for the school because of the Florida Chautauqua; the school was coeducational and had few rules but the internalized social codes of the students resulted in almost no difficulties with discipline; the students, a majority of whom were women, were from middle-class southern families; the college compared favorably in faculty, facilities and curriculum to institutions elsewhere; although few students graduated, alumni played a key role in shaping Florida's common schools; and, the Buckman Act entirely changed the nature of higher education in Florida. Implications were: The coeducational nature of the college a hundred years ago significantly changes the picture of Florida's higher education; the school was small, but its influence far outlasted the institution; and, the school struggled with issues which continue to trouble modern educators such as finances, the legislature, student retention, underpreparedness, and the proper structuring of a curriculum, which indicates the persistence of these issues.

Subject Area

Education history|Higher education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Clifford, Sharon Yvonne, "With the highest ideals: The Florida State Normal College at DeFuniak Springs, 1887-1905" (1996). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9734466.