Sunday, January 17, 2010

Short history of American Education

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

Short history of American Education

August 18, 2008 – 6:25 am by Brendan

I was going to follow up with a story on classical vs progressive education, but I wanted to start with a bit of history. That took too long so I will give the history lesson today and follow with the post on education next week. (If I don’t get sidetracked again.)

The first school in the United States is usually considered the Boston Latin School. The first law concerning education in the United States was the Massachusetts Education laws of 1642 and 1647. (I know there were no United States then) The first law required parents or masters of children to educate said children in reading and writing. The second law required towns to hire a school teacher when houses increased beyond 50 families.

The Land Ordinance of 1785 set aside land specifically for the use of education. It is also useful to note that this law also set aside a separate plot of land for religion. The original Massachusetts laws were aimed specifically at allowing men to be able to read and understand the law and to read the scriptures.

In 1837 Horace Mann became Secretary of Education. He was one of the principal figures in instilling the idea that education could be the great equalizer. Horace Mann felt that with education poverty would disappear and crime would decline as quality education would have no end to the social good it would create.

Over the next 40 years normal schools, the first teacher colleges would start, high schools as a link between grade schools and universities would be reinvigorated, and a minimum school year would be created.

In the 1880’s schools would start to become big business. As school out grew their one room houses grade would develop, the beginnings of standards were developed, and guidelines for teachers became more formal. As the schools broke into grade the principal was invented as a manager of teachers. Next superintendent of schools was created as schools moved from one classroom or one building into several schools.

Today’s modern school system is really only about 100 years old. Obviously school districts as we know it didn’t grow overnight. Most areas had similar models of one room school houses that grew into two or three school houses for primary, elementary, and high schools it is important to note that not every school district followed that model. In the United States the majority of the population grew up in rural area up until this time. That means the majority of the population would have to travel a significant distance to get to a school.

As schools became more standardized and evolved towards grades and one teacher per grade. Many of these small towns would consolidate schools. As schools centralized more of the far flung students would find alternative schooling, either home schooling, or private schooling. (many private religious schools had been open for years as the separation of church and state was enforced about 100 year prior)

In 1925 Pierce v. Society of Sisters made it clear that though students could be required to go to school what school they went to was the choice of the parents or guardians.

Again I am way too long winded.

Other sources. 1 2 3 4

Post a Comment