Education in the Colonial Era

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The Puritans are best known for fleeing to America to escape religious persecution in England. They settled mostly in the New England area as our school books tell us, they landed on Plymouth Rock. They built their new society entirely on the belief that the "Bible was God's true law" (Kizer). Consequently, education became an important part of Puritan life. According to the Puritans, "Satan was keeping those who couldn't read from the scriptures" (Education in the Colonies).

Puritan education consisted of four types of schooling: dame school, Latin Grammar school, apprenticeships and higher education. All children were taught essentially so that they would be able to read the Bible. However, poor children and girls did not go to school passed the elementary level. Basic education consisted of being able to read, write, perform basic computation, and religious instruction. Upper class children continued their education and went to Latin grammar schools where they were prepped for college.

In order to ensure that all children were given the necessary instruction, several laws were passed. In 1642, the Massachusetts Bay Colony Law was passed stating that all children must learn how to read and write or pay a fine. If basic education was not being met, children could be removed from their families. Still fearing academic negligence, The Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647 was passed. It stated that towns with fifty families or more had to have a teacher and towns with one hundred families or more had to establish a grammar school. This law shifted the responsibility of education from the parents to the town. This eventually gave way to publicly funded education. Colonists were taxed in order to pay teacher salaries. Children ages six to eight were sent to dame school. Dame school ran much like a present day day care. It was taught by usually a widow at her home. She taught the children how to read and write as they followed her while she did housework. Students were...
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