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."
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
A Few Leaders Emerged...
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 (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.
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.
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
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.
schools with broader and more practical curricula than those found in grammar
schools of the previous era.
Discuss whether American institutions of higher education are based on
Jefferson or Franklin principles.
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