[Vision2020] Some History of Education
privatejf32 at hotmail.com
Sun May 13 20:09:56 PDT 2007
I am sure Doug and Dougie-Boy are aware of the following, being the highly
informed beings they are. But I offer it for those of us not as informed.
Interesting stuff, really:
Even in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania in 1774, there were still few schools.
Many parents taught their children to read and write at home using a bible
and a hornbook. A hornbook was a wooden board with a handle. A lesson sheet
of the ABCs in small and capital letters, some series of syllables and
often, the Lord's Prayer, was attached to the board and was protected by a
thin layer of cow's horn. Some hornbooks of wealthy families were very
fancy, decorated with jewels and leather and included ivory pointers. Most
of them were plain and had a string around the handle to be worn around the
People who wrote the early primers and readers used pictures of animals
learning to read and write to show that reading and writing were natural and
fairly easy processes! By the 1750s, literacy rates (percentage of people
who could basically read and write) were the highest in the New England
colonies, at about 75% for males and 65% for females. The literacy rates,
however, were lower in the the Middle and Southern colonies.
Children wrote using a quill dipped in ink, which sometimes blotted on the
page, so they sprinkled on pounce. Pounce is a powder-like sand that helps
not blotch the page
Most children wrote in a copybook because paper was so expensive. Wealthy
children had a tutor (always a man) teach them privately. Some boys went to
grammar school and sometimes even college but never girls. Girls were given
lessons on how to run a home. It wasn't even expected for girls to spend any
of their time reading! Instead their mothers taught them how to cook, sew,
preserve food, direct servants and serve an elegant meal. Some girls were
sent to teachers to learn how to sing, play a musical instrument, sew fancy
stitchery, to serve tea properly by learning manners and how to carry on a
polite conversation. When boys grew older, they could become apprentices to
learning to become shopkeepers or craftsmen by working with and watching an
adult. Education was becoming more secular in order to produce socially
English Grammar Schools were born as the growth of middle-class businesses
in the 1700s led to the demand for a secondary education that would provide
practical instruction in many subjects, from navigation and engineering to
bookkeeping and foreign languages. Students needed more than elementary
instruction; but were not interested in preparing for college. Commercial
subjects were emphasized over religious ones. Some other subjects such as
music, art and dancing were also taught as means to train students for
socializing in polite company. These schools were the first secondary
institutions to accept female students. Girls who lived in the Middle
Colonies had greater educational opportunity than girls who lived elsewhere
because of the larger number of schools there. Quakers and Christian
leaders such as William Penn and Anthony Benezet, were concerned with and
supported the education of several deprived groups such as women as well as
African-Americans and Native Americans.
Later in the 1700s, English Grammar Schools became more flexible in allowing
women to attend. They were taught the 3 Rs (Reading, Writing, and
'Rithmetic), as well as dancing, French, and Training on being a Lady.
The Academy was a new type of secondary school that grew up during the
second half of the eighteenth century. It was basically an attempt to
combine Latin and English grammar schools through separate Latin and English
departments within one school. These schools were private, and women were
allowed to attend. Academies were unlike the Latin grammar schools in that
the primary language was English. Also, classical subjects were included in
the curriculum, unlike the English grammar schools. Later on, the academy
became the most popular type of secondary school.
The history of education in America is long and varied. For the most part,
education in the colonial days as well as the first years of the United
States was primarily done at the home. Parents taught their children to
read and writer and perform basic calculations. Boys were traditionally
taught more academic subjects, while a womans education, beyond basic
reading, writing, and math, was limited to learning how to run a household.
Indeed, even well-heeled girls in private schools were rarely educated in
academic subjects beyond a basic level required to function as a society
As the country became more densely populated, schools became more common,
but the level of education remained the same and actual schools were all
private affairs catering to the wealthy. This was the case in 1840, when
reformers from Massachusetts and Connecticut started pushing for mandatory
state-funded schooling. The efforts took hold relatively quickly in
Massachusetts, which passed the first bill requiring all children to attend
elementary school in 1852. New York followed with a similar bill in 1853.
By 1918 every state in the Union had a law requiring that all children be
required to attend school.
Not everyone was happy with this idea. Catholics, for example, were not too
pleased with the idea of sending their children to public school. In a 1925
case, Pierce V. Society of Sisters, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that while
a state could compel a parent to send his or her child to school, it could
not force children to attend public schools, private schools would also do.
As for high school, the progress has been a little bit slower. In many
cases, high school attendance is still not mandatory for those 16 and older.
Throughout the 20th century, as jobs moved from the field to the factory
and eventually to the office, the demand for a more highly educated
workforce took root. This led to a massive increase in the number of high
school graduates and people going to college. Over the course of the 20th
century, we went from having about 6% of the population graduating from high
school to over 85% of students graduating from high school. Similarly,
college attendance has jumped from about 2% of 18-24 year olds to about 60%
of 18-24 year olds taking some sort of post high-school course, either at a
four year college or a two year community college.
Today, we live in a contentious society, with public schools often at the
center of furious debates over culture, spending, economics, and religion as
well as the future and direction of our country. Tests, standards,
bilingual schools, school choice, all these debates that everyone thinks are
so new are old news. People have been debating all these issues since the
institution of mandatory publicly funded education. Having a country as big
and varied as the United States with a cookie-cutter style education has
created many problems, but people forget that it has solved many problems as
well. For example, the fact that we have free schooling through high school
means that the workforce is more highly educated and can handle the more
technical jobs of a technology-based economy. Schools were one of the first
places to be integrated, leading to increased rights for minorities and a
more egalitarian society.
For more information on the history of education in America, please see
PBS' History of Public Schools and History of Public Education
Americans have valued education from this country's earliest days. The
Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1657, passed a law requiring a community of 50
or more families to hire a schoolteacher. No less a person than Ben Franklin
(1706-1790) believed the value of education was its ability to create useful
members of a prosperous society. However at that time only men were targeted
for formal education as women were expected to follow in their mother's role
Puritans founded Harvard College in 1636, and in 1701, the Congregational
Church started Yale University. The Great Awakening, a revival of religious
feelings, occurred around 1739. This search for new preachers resulted in
new colleges. Princeton was built in 1746, and King's or Columbia started in
1754. Dartmouth College opened in 1769. All these colleges were private,
exclusive and costly. They taught classical studies, which meant the great
works and deeds of the past. Public schools were still a foreign idea in
America, as was the study of ideas in technology, agriculture and other
The most striking thing about Horace Mann's early life was his struggle to
get an education. The son a poor farmer, he attended a small, inadequately
outfitted one-room schoolhouse. An traveling schoolmaster helped tutor him,
but mostly he taught himself using the community library. Described as
introspective and highly read, Mann used his determination and thirst for
knowledge to earn a diploma from Brown University in 1819 and the title of
class valedictorian. Following that, he went to law school in Connecticut
and, in 1825, became a practicing attorney in Boston.
Mann was a humanitarian, and a great supporter for public education. He did
this from his position as secretary of the Massachusetts state legislature.
Mann knew the basis of quality education is good teachers, so he advocated
for trained professional teachers in all public schools. Mann's belief in
improving society also pushed him to reform mental institutions and call for
the end of slavery.
In 1837, Mann was elected first secretary of the Massachusetts Board of
Education. What was so unusual about this man, who would eventually be known
as "the father of the American common school," was he gave up a lucrative
career in business to pursue a life helping others. He believed an educated
person helped further society and the economy, just as Franklin had said.
This logic resulted in increased funding and better pay for teachers.
Later in his life, Mann was elected as a member of the U.S. House of
Representatives, worked to end slavery and to build hospitals for the
Mann believed popular schooling could be transformed into a powerful
instrument for social unity by providing all children with a common set of
values and skills. To this end, he had three objectives. First, he needed
data to prove his points. Second, he wanted all textbooks to be approved.
Finally, Mann sought to have Normal Schools, or teacher colleges, controlled
by the states. In this way, government could control what was taught in
public school, how it was taught, what resources could be used to teach, and
who was allowed to teach. These issues created a mission for public
education and gave a significant role to government.
Catch suspicious messages before you open themwith Windows Live Hotmail.
More information about the Vision2020