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.