No matter where our political identities may align, it is generally agreed upon here in America that education is an important part of our development as individuals. So much so that the government dedicates funding and sets standards to try to ensure that there is a quality public education available for every child. So in the spirit of education, here are 10 facts about the history of education in the USA.
1. American public schools have their origins in the 17th century, when the country was still just 13 colonies under British rule. The very first school in what we now know as the United States was Boston Latin School, which opened in 1635. It still survives today as America’s oldest public school.
2. Originally, public schools were more focused on teaching religious studies. Instead of what we’d consider more traditional curriculum like math, science, and reading, early schools taught the virtues of religion, family, and community to students.
3. In Colonial America, both boys and girls were taught to read from young ages because New England Puritans believed it was essential for them to study the Bible. However, most girls were not taught how to write. It was considered unnecessary to teach them writing skills because men would be the ones to handle the household’s affairs.
4. The first college in America was Harvard University, which was founded in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636, a year after America’s first public school.
5. Women were not originally allowed to seek a higher education. The first woman to obtain a bachelor’s degree was Catherine Brewer after graduating from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia on July 16, 1840.
6. By the mid-19th century, it became the sole responsibility of public schools to teach academics.
7. While it was widespread in New England in the days of Colonial America, there was little public schooling in the South and elsewhere. Most parents either had a private tutor homeschool their children or had them attend local private schools if they could afford it. This changed during the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War.
8. Common schools, which educated students of all ages in a single classroom with one teacher, emerged during the 18th century. However, these schools weren’t free to attend. Parents paid tuition, as well as provided housing for the teacher and other supplies in order for their children to be allowed to attend.
9. By 1900, a mandatory compulsory education had been set for students age 8 to 14 in 31 states. Every state has required students to complete elementary school since 1918.
10. While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregated schools unconstitutional in its historic 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the US continued to have racially segregated school systems into the 1960s. It was by the late 1970s that segregated schooling was eliminated in the United States.