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What Were The Goals of Education during the Revolution Period (1750-1820)?

What Were The Goals of Education during the Revolution Period (1750-1820)? Module 2.3

"The good Education of youth has been esteemed by wise men in all ages, as the surest foundation of the happiness both of private families and of commonwealths."

-Benjamin Franklin

By this time the original European settlers were replaced by a new generation, whose identity was exclusively American. Education began to lose the European traditions. The American Revolution (1776) was the culmination of this movement away from the European traditions and resulted in independence for the thirteen colonies from Great Britain. A system of education became essential in order to preserve the freedom that had been fought for.

A Few Leaders Emerged...

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) impacted our history in several ways. He was an educator, who founded, designed and promoted the Philadelphia Academy, a secondary school that opened in 1751. This school replaced the old Latin grammar school, and it focused on the English language instead of the Latin language. Although Academies were largely privately controlled and financed, they were also supported by public funds. Academies were opened to the public such that anyone who could afford to attend, could attend, regardless of religious affiliation.

He was a journalist and writer and he established one of the first newspapers in the American colonies. He was a statesman and an ambassador to France, as well as one of the leaders in the American Revolution. He was also an inventor. His proposals for educating the youth included English grammar, composition and literature, classical and modern foreign languages, science, writing and drawing, geography, history, agriculture, gardening, arithmetic, accounting, and mechanics.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the third president of the United States and the author of the Declaration of Independence. He believed in the education of the common man as the most effective means of preserving the democratic ideal and liberty. He felt that in order for a society to remain free, it must support s system of public education. He consistently advocated for free public education, even as early as 1779 when he tried to persuade the Virginia legislature to fund elementary and secondary schools. Though he was not successful in this particular endeavor, Jefferson still was able to exert an influence on the development of formal education in the United States. He went on to establish the University of Virginia and oversaw the adoption and implementation of many of his ideas regarding education.

Sarah Pierce

Girls Received little formal education at this time. An exception to this was Sarah Pierce's Litchfield Female Academy in Litchfield, Connecticut. Pierce (1767-1852) began her academy in the dining room of her home with two students. Eventually the academy grew to 140 female students.

Noah Webster

After the revolution, several textbooks were printed in the United States with patriotic and moralistic influences. Noah Webster (1758-1843) wrote one such book called Noah Webster's Elementary Spelling Book and The American Dictionary.

A little summary...
Historical Foundations of Education, 1600 to 1865

America's formal education system was heavily influenced by European intellectuals. Their beliefs in education, human potential, and learning still shape American education.

Education in the colonies reflected the colonists' beliefs, values, and concerns. Most colonists believed education should help save souls and emphasized the scriptures. New England colonies established town schools with a strong Puritan tradition. Different groups in the middle colonies established parochial schools that preserved their various languages and beliefs. Informal education in early America meant learning from the family, working through apprenticeships, and learning from the increasing number of published books and newspapers of books and newspapers.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1785 established a precedent for public financing of education. Early nineteenth century reformers called for more humanistic views of education. Increased industrialization in the early nineteenth century led to increased emphasis on practical rather than theoretical learning. White Protestant males had the most opportunity for education. It was illegal to educate slaves in the South, although there were Blacks and Whites who did so. Missionaries, freed Blacks, religious groups, and slave owners were a source of education for slaves. Native and Hispanic Americans were educated at home and in mission schools. Until the 1800s, females were primarily educated at home or in dame schools where they learned a variety of rudimentary skills. Clergymen and physicians, including Braille, Howe, and Gallaudet, developed educational programs for persons with disabilities.

During colonial times, academic qualifications of teachers ranged from bare ability to read to a college education. Teaching meant memorizing facts; teachers used large-group instruction, choral responses, and harsh corporal punishment. Joseph Lancaster introduced the monitorial method of teaching in the 1820s. The spread of lyceums, common schools, land-grant colleges, Latin grammar schools, English academies, and high schools expanded formal education at the primary and secondary levels. By the late 1700s, several colleges had been established for young men. The Moral Act of 1862 provided federal assistance for establishment of public colleges of agriculture and mechanical or industrial arts. The common school movement promoted reforms such as public schools for all children, taxation for public education, longer school terms, kindergartens, and teacher preparation programs.

Early curriculum materials were based on the Old and New Testaments. The hornbook was the first reader for many students. Later, primers-textbooks designed to impart rudimentary reading skills-were developed. Early geographys, dictionaries, and spellers emphasized patriotic and moral themes. In 1836, McGuffy Readers were first produced; they emphasized virtues and patriotic nationalism.

Early schools were judged successful if they provided rudimentary education in the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic at low cost. The success or failure of schools varied for students depending on their race, gender, or social class. Compared to other societies of the time, however, education in early America was remarkably successful.


Academies-early secondary schools with broader and more practical curricula than those found in grammar schools of the previous era.


Activity 1

Discuss whether American institutions of higher education are based on Jefferson or Franklin principles.

Activity 2

Fill in the blank

1.The Massachusetts Act of 1642 was significant in that it made education a responsibility of the _______.

2. At the close of the American Revolution, literate Native Americans and Mexican Americans usually received their training from _________


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