Vocational Building Interior

Parker School

1923 –

Attending to the “needs of the child,” the Parker School established health, aesthetic, vocational, general education, leisure, and environmental programs for both students and adults.

The Parker School in Greenville County was one of the more innovative progressive schools in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. Described in 1941 as a “mill town miracle” by Reader’s Digest, the Parker School embodied basic tenets of community education and progressive education. Lawrence P. Hollis organized the school to reflect Greenville mill owner Thomas Parker’s utopian vision of work, school, and society. Mill village elementary schools in the west-side textile area of Greenville first constituted the Parker District in 1923; Parker High School opened one year later. In 1951 the Parker School District consolidated with other districts to form the Greenville Public School District. In 1985 the Parker High School building was closed and converted to a middle school.

Attending to the “needs of the child,” the Parker School established health, aesthetic, vocational, general education, leisure, and environmental programs for both students and adults. The school’s elementary course of study emphasized learning units and the “project method,” an instructional method focused on students’ activities rather than on the printed book and recitation. The secondary school program connected traditional subjects with a focus on “centers of interest.” A nationally recognized materials bureau collected documents used for student/teacher-developed resource units. School activities took students into the surrounding community and throughout the state. While recognized throughout the United States for its innovative school practices, the Parker School embraced the objectives of welfare capitalism; its focus on “vocation as textile training” rather than “vocation as general culture” actually served to exclude the Parker School from a progressive education tradition.

Ariail, Mary G., and Nancy J. Smith. Weaver of Dreams: A History of the Parker District. Columbia, S.C.: R. L. Bryan, 1977.

Tippett, James. Schools for a Growing Democracy. Boston: Ginn, 1936.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Parker School
  • Coverage 1923 –
  • Author
  • Keywords Lawrence P. Hollis organized the school to reflect Greenville mill owner Thomas Parker’s utopian vision of work, school, and society, Greenville Public School District, embraced the objectives of welfare capitalism;
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 1, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 3, 2019
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