Wonder Contributors

We have many Wonder Friends WONDERing today’s question! Thank you Jenny, Ari, Jhon, Lesly, Adalia, Cassie, Andrew, Amiah, Joseph, Maddi, Kaiden, Anthiony, Elijah, Emmaly, and Maisy, for submitting today’s Wonder Question!

Why was school created? We’re sure that’s a question that every student asks from time to time. Especially on tough test days, many students WONDER exactly why they’re being subjected to such cruel and unusual punishment!

If you’re honest with yourself, though, you know what a great place school is. You have fun, learn all sorts of interesting things, and get to spend quality time with your friends. Sure, tests can be stressful, but think of how boring life would be if you didn’t get to learn new things and see other people so often!

Schools are not a new invention. You may have seen some old one-room schoolhouses that have been around for a couple hundred years or more. The earliest schools, though, date back thousands of years!

In fact, education dates back to the very first humans ever to inhabit Earth. Why? To survive, every generation has found it necessary to pass on its accumulated knowledge, skills, values, and traditions to the next generation. How can they do this? Education! Each subsequent generation must be taught these things.

The earliest human beings didn’t need schools to pass along information. They educated youngsters on an individual basis within the family unit. Over time, however, populations grew and societies formed.

Rather than every family being individually responsible for education, people soon figured out that it would be easier and more efficient to have a small group of adults teach a larger group of children. In this way, the concept of the school was born.

Ancient schools weren’t like the schools we know today, though. The earliest schools often focused more on teaching skills and passing along religious values, rather than teaching specific subject areas like is common today.

In the United States, the first schools began in the 13 original colonies in the 17th century. For example, Boston Latin School, which was founded in 1635, was the first public school and the oldest existing school in the country.

The earliest schools focused on reading, writing, and mathematics. The New England colonies led the way in requiring towns to set up schools. The Massachusetts Bay Colony made basic education a requirement in 1642. However, many of the earliest schools were only for boys, and there were usually few, if any, options for girls.

After the American Revolution, education became a higher priority. States quickly began to establish public schools. School systems were not uniform, however, and would often vary greatly from state to state.

Credit for our modern version of the school system usually goes to Horace Mann. When he became Secretary of Education in Massachusetts in 1837, he set forth his vision for a system of professional teachers who would teach students an organized curriculum of basic content. For this reason, Mann is often called the “Father of the Common School Movement.”

Many other states quickly followed Mann’s system he instituted in Massachusetts. More and more states began to require school attendance. By 1918, every state required students to complete elementary school. Educational improvements grew by leaps and bounds during the 20th century, leading to the advanced systems we enjoy today.

36 Join the Discussion

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    • Thanks for WONDERing with us today, Brody H! When Horace Mann became Massachusetts’ Secretary of Education in 1837, schools in the U.S. had already been established for about 200 years, so the idea of going to school was not a new concept for him. He worked to make schools more organized and improve public education. :)

  1. Why did they just have reading,writing, and math and not other things?
    Genevieve V

    Why were most of the schools only for boys?
    Dani K

    • We love that you’re WONDERing, Dani K and Genevieve V! A couple hundred years ago, the subjects of reading, writing and math taught the skills needed for the jobs that people had back then. But as science and other newer fields have advanced, schools have broadened the range of subjects that are taught in order to prepare us for new kinds of jobs.

      At first, schools were for boys only because it was normal for only men went to work outside of the home and for women to take care of the household (doing things like raising their children, cooking, and cleaning). At one time, it was thought that girls didn’t need the skills of writing and math. We’re really glad that thinking changed, and that now our schools are for boys and girls! Aren’t you? :)

  2. i like school but why was it that school only had one class room and a lot of student in that one little class room and another thing for you why did the first human on earth why did he or she not have to go to school he or she need to no information to right daija G.

    • Hi, Daija G.! One-room schoolhouses were used in rural (country) areas, where the population of residents was quite low. Children would have been a variety of ages and there might not have been enough students to fill just one grade, so all the children would gather together and a teacher would teach the basics of reading, writing and math to them. Often older children would be helpers for the teacher and help younger children understand the lessons. Do you like helping your teacher now? If you lived back then, do you think you’d want to help younger kids learn? :)

    • Hello there, Landon A. and Lance H.! They focused on reading, writing and math because those were the skills needed for the jobs available back then. But when you think about it, a lot of what we learn in school still revolves around these basics even today! :)

  3. We were wondering if the school days are longer how long would it be?-Abi and Emma

    In the future what would replace books?-Abi and Emma

    • Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis, Abi and Emma! We’re not sure how long school days would be if they were lengthened. This is a hot debate! Some people propose one hour extra and some propose up to 3 extra hours! Still others suggest not lengthening the school day, but increasing the number of days students attend school throughout the year. What do you think sounds best?

      We hope books will be around for a very long time! We just love curling up with a good book! Don’t you? :)

    • Hi there, Nikita R.! Thanks for asking for a bit more clarification! Education is SO important to every part of our lives – whether you’re reading a prescription label, selecting food at the grocery store or following a recipe for a tasty meal, just think about all the times you or your parents have needed to read something! We don’t just need to read and write in our day-to-day lives, but also for our jobs. Eventually, you’ll grow up and need to get a job to help pay for your food, home, clothes and more. School is a way to teach you the skills you’ll need to be good at your job. School not only teaches us reading, writing and math, but also MANY more skills that will help us be successful in life! :)

    • What a great question, Gabe M! Humans from very long ago were curious about the world around them, just like we are today! They WONDERed how things work and how to make things better and all that WONDERing helped them to learn new things! :)

    • That’s right, Zech! One-room schoolhouses were common in rural areas of the U.S., where populations of people were smaller. :)

    • What an interesting question, Emmaleigh S.! We’re not sure what will replace computers in the future, but we’re excited to find out! What do you think? :)

    • Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis and commenting, Macey and Carson! We can’t wait to see what the future holds for school! We bet it includes LOTS of WONDERing! We want to know what you think! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion, Jaclyn S! Sometimes the school day can seem pretty long, but there’s just so much to learn! Have a WONDERful day! :)

  4. Why where girls not aloud to go to school? – Amelia L.

    Why do you think that we should go to school longer? -Torrance H.

    • We’re so glad you came to Wonderopolis today, Amelia L. and Torrance H.! For a while, girls did not attend school because it was customary for women to take care of the household instead of working outside the home like men did. We’re sure glad schools eventually opened to girls as well!

      Like the creators of today’s video, some people feel a longer school day would give students more time to master important skills and expand their knowledge. Thanks for WONDERing with us, you two! :)

    • We love the extra WONDERing you’re doing, Elijah H and Jordan M! We encourage you to embark on a Wonder journey of your own to explore your question! When you find the answer, we hope you’ll come back and share it with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why was school created?
  • Who invented the first school?
  • Have kids in the United States always had to go to school?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

School is in session and it’s time to grab some friends and family members to help you explore the following fun activities:

  • Field trip time! Ask an adult friend or family member to take you on a driving tour of local schools. Sure, you’re familiar with your current school, but what will your next school look like? What do the schools in other nearby towns look like? Have fun driving around and comparing the different schools in your area.
  • How much do you love your school? Make a list of the top five things you love the most about your school. Share your thoughts with a teacher or administrator. Then make a list of five areas where your school could improve. Instead of sharing those ideas, brainstorm some things that YOU could do to make things better. When you have some solid ideas for improvements, ask a teacher or administrator for help implementing one or more of your ideas. Have fun being the change you want to see in your school!
  • Up for a challenge? You’re in charge of public education in your city. You don’t have to do anything like the way things have always been done. You just have to make sure that children receive the education they need to succeed in today’s society. What system would you put in place? Would you create schools? Or would you do something completely different? Give it some thought and write a short description of what system you would create and why you would make the decisions you’d make. Have fun thinking about education from a new perspective!

Still Wondering

Illuminations’ About Our Class lesson explores how students use numbers in school and everyday settings as a way for students and the teacher to get to know each other at the beginning of the school year.

Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day features all the colors of the rainbow…and more!

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