Published in The Miner's Lamp Newsletter
From Coal Mining to International Correspondence Schools to the Penn Foster Company, 1891 - 2012.
After the Civil War, the anthracite industry was shaken by a series of mining disasters. As a result, in 1885, the Pennsylvania legislature passed laws to improve mine safety. One law required that all mine inspectors, foremen, and superintendents pass competency examinations.
Thomas J. Foster, a proponent of the mine safety program, was editor of the Shenandoah Mining Herald. Foster began to print sample problems and copies of previous competency exams in the pages of the Herald to help men prepare for the competency exams. He encouraged readers to send their answers to the Herald for correction and comment. These questions and responses began to dominate the columns of the newspaper.
The International Correspondence Schools (ICS) growth is a story of response to an apparent need—to help men needing assistance in basic subjects and specialized information on mining problems. Foster contracted with practicing engineers to write easily understood articles or pamphlets. They developed the ICS format: a text, practice problems which encouraged students to apply theory to practical applications, and a final exam. The Herald hired a staff of instructors and graders to evaluate student responses. Seeking a more centrally located headquarters, Foster moved to Scranton...
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