Education: Overview

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Education: Overview

In the early colonial period, Massachusetts passed an education law (1642) that required instruction in religious principles and civic obedience to the laws of Massachusetts. The Old Deluder Satan Act (1647) required reading and writing schools for towns with at least fifty families. It required grammar schools, like the Boston Latin School (1635), for towns with at least one hundred families. Grammar schools offered classical instruction in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew along with rhetoric, logic, and mathematics, and they prepared students for Harvard College (1636). Other New England colonies followed Massachusetts's plan. The Connecticut colony, for example, adopted a similar grammar school plan in the early eighteenth century that prepared students for Yale College (1701).

Throughout the eighteenth century, the population became more urbanized and ethnically diverse. Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) saw the increase in the German-speaking population of Pennsylvania as a problem. He advocated English schools emphasizing

not only the English language, but also English culture and history to assimilate the recent German immigrants into the colony. Franklin wanted all children to attend school in common, an approach leading to the common school concept.

Two years after his Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania (1749), Franklin published Idea of an English School (1751). In the latter he proposed an education that emphasized practical instruction in commerce and public service rather than ministerial training, thus laying foundation for the academy school to follow. In 1751 the Academy of Philadelphia, based upon his idea, opened its doors. Nevertheless, William Smith (1727–1803), the first provost of the college, developed a curriculum that was less practical than Franklin had proposed; it included science, history, logic, mathematics, and geography. In 1755 it became a college and was renamed the College of Philadelphia. It added the first colonial medical school, established by John Morgan in 1765. The college remained open until 1779, when the state took it over and converted it into the University of the State of Pennsylvania following charges of subversive Loyalist activities there. After a lengthy legal battle, the College of Philadelphia reopened in 1789. In 1791 it merged with the University of the State to form the University of Pennsylvania.

Smith began teaching in Pennsylvania charity schools sponsored by the Church of England's Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG; 1701). In 1753 he published A General Idea of the College of Mirania, in which he outlined the importance of providing an education to meet the needs of the people. In 1754 New York adopted the Mirania idea and established King's College (Columbia College in 1784), with Samuel Johnson (1696–1772) as its first president. Smith later presided over the opening of Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, in 1782.

the revolution and republican education

The Revolutionary generation brought more changes in education, changes based upon republican ideals. For many, the future of the new Republic depended upon an educated citizenry. The Continental Congress addressed the need for education when it adopted the Northwest Ordinance in 1787. Article 3 displayed the unbridled faith of the Revolutionary generation in a republican education, stating that "religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." In 1795 Connecticut adopted a similar idea of using the sale of public lands in the Western Reserve of Ohio to finance education.

Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was in the fore-front of those who believed that an enlightened population was essential for the future of the Republic. To accomplish this, Jefferson in 1779 submitted to the Virginia legislature a Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, which proposed schools at the public's expense. Jefferson wanted all children to attend the first three years of reading and writing school. The highest achievers would advance to grammar schools. The best would attend six more years of school, half of whom would then advance to the College of William and Mary (1693) for three years. Although the bill failed, Jefferson remained committed to republican education.

Jefferson saw higher education as the culmination of a republican education and proposed to state legislators his idea of a university open to all qualified citizens of Virginia. Jefferson enlisted architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764–1820) to design the new university. In 1816 Virginia passed a bill resulting in the establishment of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, which opened in 1825, one year before Jefferson's death.

Noah Webster (1758–1843) wanted an American educational system with a nationalistic perspective. Although he believed that children should receive instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic, he also stressed the need to teach republican virtues and patriotism. In 1783 he published the Grammatical Institute of the English Language, in which argued for a national language and culture distinguishable from those of Europe. Webster included a federal catechism in his spellers to evoke patriotic loyalty to the new Republic.

In 1798 Benjamin Rush (1745–1813) wrote an essay titled Of the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic. Here he advocated an education that would produce "republican machines." Unlike Jefferson and Webster, Rush believed that the foundation of republican education should be laid upon Christianity and virtue.

charity schools

In the 1790s and onward, urban populations continued to increase, while at the same time there was an increase in poverty. Many equated poverty with crime, especially among immigrants. To correct this, educators advocated the expansion of charity schools, which grew not only in number but in kind to include juvenile reformatory schools. New York State founded the New York Free School Society (1805). It aimed at providing a common school experience that would develop better citizens, especially among the poor and the immigrant populations, based upon the Lancasterian system.

Joseph Lancaster (1778–1838), born in England, developed a new monitorial method of instruction in which the older and best students instructed assigned groups of younger students. With this method, Lancaster enabled teachers to instruct as many as five hundred students at a time. This factory system of education depended upon submission to highly regimented instruction. Lancaster, a Quaker, was opposed to physical punishment, replacing it with obedience to order achieved through military-style marching and drilling. Following the publication of his Improvements in Education (1803), many American charity schools began adopting Lancasterian methods, which laid the foundation for the common schools of the 1830s.

female education

Between 1754 and 1829, some wealthy families provided women with private tutors who offered primary-level instruction. Some religious sects, such as the Quakers and Moravians, included female departments in their schools. With the Revolution and the idea of a republican education, females increasingly gained access to schools.

In 1787 Benjamin Rush addressed the students at the Young Ladies' Academy in Philadelphia (1787), the first female school in America. In his speech, "Thoughts upon Female Education," Rush pointed out the necessity of educating females so they could become good republican mothers teaching sons and husbands to be better citizens. In Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), Mary Wollstonecraft also advocated an educated female population. She believed it better for parents to educate children at home. Thus, it was necessary for mothers to attain an education. Furthermore, she thought educated females led to a more civilized society. James Armstrong Neal (1774–1808) agreed in his work, An Essay on the Education and Genius of the Female Sex (1795). He equated the level of civilization with the educational level of the female citizenry.

Female academies increasingly proliferated, especially in the North. In 1792 Sarah Pierce (1767–1852) founded Litchfield Female Academy in Connecticut. Her students included Catharine Beecher (1800–1878) and Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896). Catharine Beecher went on to found Hartford Seminary (1823) in Connecticut. Byfield Female Seminary (1807) near Boston was instrumental in female education. In 1821 Mary Lyon (1797–1849) attended Byfield. She went on to become a teacher and principal at Adams Female Academy (1824) in New Hampshire and Ipswich Female Seminary (1828) in Massachusetts. Another Byfield student was Zilpah Grant (1794–1874), who founded Ipswich Seminary. Emma Willard (1787–1870), who founded Troy Female Seminary in 1821, trained a large number of female teachers. In 1824 Worcester, Massachusetts, began the first high school for females. In New England, farm families often sent daughters to work in the textile mills, where they received an education in addition to wages.

native american education

The first Great Awakening (1730s–1750s) increased interest in the Christian conversion of Native Americans and African Americans. Itinerant minister Samuel Davies (1723–1761) preached New Light Presbyterianism in Virginia well into the 1750s. He believed conversion depended upon religious instruction. In 1759 Davies took the position of president of the College of New Jersey (1746), later Princeton University. The religious revivals of the late eighteenth century encouraged others to educate Indians and African Americans with the aim of integrating them into "civilized" society.

In 1769 Congregationist minister Eleazar Wheelock (1711–1779) founded Dartmouth College in New Hampshire to educate Native Americans. Fifteen years earlier he had established Moors Charity School in Lebanon, Connecticut, for Native Americans. One of his former students, Samson Occom (1723–1792), a Mohegan, helped raise funds for Dartmouth. The school, however, rejected most Indian applicants.

Early on, the College of William and Mary (1693) in Virginia opened its doors to Native Americans in hopes of preserving peace. By the time the school closed its doors to Native Americans in 1777, however, most of the Indian students were war captives or hostages.

In the late eighteenth century, Baptist missionaries were the most active in educating Native Americans. They worked among the Cherokees in Georgia and other southeastern tribes. In 1821 Sequoyah (1776–1843) produced his Cherokee Syllabary, which helped increase literacy among the Cherokees. These efforts came to abrupt ends with the pressure to remove the "civilized tribes" from the Southeast, culminating with Worcester v. Georgia (1832), involving the illegal residence of missionary and educator Samuel A. Worcester on Cherokee tribal lands.

african american education

In the colonial period, the SPG was the organization most active in educating African Americans, the purpose being their religious conversion. Following the Revolution, John Rogers of the Trinity Episcopal Church established the African Free School (1796) as an offshoot of the New York State Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves (1785). The graduates included the actor Ira Aldridge (1807–1867); the first black pharmacist in New York City, James McCune Smith (1813–1865); the editor of Freedom's Journal, John B. Russwurm (1799–1851); and the physician Martin Delany (1812–1885). The Quakers' educational efforts among African Americans began to surpass those of the SPG in the late eighteenth century. Anthony Benezet (1713–1784) opened the Philadelphia African School in 1782. Quakers in Delaware formed the African School Society in 1801.

Given reluctance among whites to provide schools for them, African Americans began opening their own. In so doing, African Americans reflected the general emphasis on the need for republican education to produce good citizens and as a means of upward social and economic mobility. In 1787 Richard Allen (1760–1831) and Absalom Jones (1746–1818) began the Free African Society in Philadelphia. The society assumed the responsibility of educating African Americans in the city.

In 1798 Prince Hall (c. 1735–1807), founder of the first black Masonic lodge (1787), opened the first school for African American children in Boston in his son's home in 1798. In 1808 the school, known as the African School, was moved to the African Meeting House. It remained there until the opening of the Abiel Smith School in 1835.

In the South, free African Americans educated their children despite white opposition. In 1790 the Brown Fellowship Society opened a school in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1803 African Americans founded the Minors' Moralist Society in Charleston, dedicated to educating orphaned and indigent black children. Daniel A. Payne (1811–1893), later bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, began his education in the society school. In 1829 Payne opened a school in Charleston. He continued until 1835, when white opposition resulting from Nat Turner's Rebellion (1831) forced him to close.

The fear of slave rebellion in the South in the early nineteenth century led many African American churches to hold clandestine Sabbath schools for both free and enslaved African Americans. These schools offered more than religious instruction; they provided instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic as well.

See alsoMissionary and Bible Tract Societies; Northwest and Southwest Ordinances; Revivals and Revivalism; Work: Teachers .


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Bradley Skelcher

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Education: Overview

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Education: Overview