The majority of Americans who refer to education in this nation, think only of public schools as we know them today, but that’s not how education started in America, and a quick look at history reveals two educational systems. The first educational system was the original intent of our founding fathers. Known as the Father of Public Education, Horace Mann is responsible for implementing the second public school system, the major system we have in the United States today. This is the system that is predominant in our country today.
From the standpoint of the founding fathers, the original intent was for schools to be founded and funded by local communities. The first laws on education were passed in the 1640s in the Massachusetts Bay Colony where the Pilgrims lived. The laws required that parents saw to it that their children knew how to read the Bible and to be able to understand the laws of the land. It was clear that parents were to be the ones who oversaw the education of their children.
The primary system consists of the secular public schools we have today funded by taxpayer money and steeped in socialism and social issues. The original system is what our forefathers intended at the inception of this nation. To pray effectively for America’s education, we must look at the history behind how we got to our present the failed state of education and pray for the restoration of the original system.
We have an early glimpse as to the value early colonists placed on education by the laws the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed in 1643-1643. These laws required parents to educate their children and other children , The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed of the first laws regarding education. In 1643, they passed a law that required parents to teach any child under their care to read and to work with numbers. If parents failed to educate their children, the government could remove them and place them in a home where they could receive a good education.
Most schools Early settlers used a Bible-based education, held high moral standards for the students, and stressed hard work and academics.
The Bible Although Massachusetts stressed education, the same was not necessarily true for the other colonies. Schools, if they existed at all, were organized by town councils, local churches, urban charitable societies, or put together with a rotation of the town’s citizens as teachers. More often than not, the Bible was the only textbook available in a classroom. Mandatory attendance was not required, which resulted in a high rate of absenteeism. The demands of children to sustain the family’s subsistence by helping with household chores, working in the fields, and assisting with a family business often took precedence over schooling.
The original system intended by our forefathers barely holds a glimmer of hope but can be revived.
Conclusion for Original Intent for Education of Children in the Colonies: The original intent of education from the standpoint of the Founding Fathers was for children to be taught the Bible in such a way that their lives were to be lived by God-given principles, knowing God as their creator, and ultimately knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Westward Expansion Spreads Secular Education (1812-1860)
From 1812-1860, education took a drastic turn in America away from its original intent. The diversion occurred as a result of two people: Horace Mann and Catharine Beecher.
Horace Mann served in the Massachusetts Legislature from 1827-1837, at which time he resigned to take the position of the newly created Massachusetts office of Secretary of Education. Horace Mann was raised in a Christian family but rejected Christianity and became a secular humanist and attended a Unitarian church. While running for office in the state legislature, Mann made a campaign promise to the Unitarians that he would start secular public schools funded by taxpayer money, which he did during his time as Secretary of Education. He is known as the Father of Public Education. Mann hated Calvinism with a passion and fought the churches who opposed his new school proposal. The Calvinists of the day feared the long-range effects of secular education and stated, “We do not need this central, all-absorbing power; it is anti-republican in all its bearings, well-adapted perhaps, to Prussia, and other European despotism, but not wanted here.” (The Christian Witness 1844)
Opposition to public schools was so prevalent that Horace Mann and his supporters secretly organized the placement of people in communities for the sole purpose to lobby in such a way to sway public opinion toward government schools.
Catharine Beecher’s father, Lyman Beecher, pastored a Presbyterian church in Ohio. As a pastor, he opposed the spread of Unitarianism, preached predestination, preached a conversion experience, advocated for the gradual elimination of slavery, and fought against the forming of secular public schools. All of her life, his daughter, Catharine expressed great opposition to the idea of conversion and a personal relationship with God. She instead embraced logic and reasoning as redemptive qualities. She refused to convert and embraced the belief that public works could serve society as well as a private faith.
In 1803, America under President Thomas Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase, which gave America 828,000 square miles of land for expansion. The humanistic concept of Manifest Destiny fed into the ideas of the two secular educators, Horace Mann, and Catharine Beecher, who seized the opportunity to secularize the settlers and their children in the newly acquired territory. They Europeanized the heathen and uncouth inhabitants of the new land, thereby creating a new secular society, devoid of Christianity in the new territory.
Horace Mann and Catharine Beecher joined forces to promote a new teaching profession for women. Beecher and Mann saw women as the best way to expand their new religion of secularism throughout the country and particularly felt that teaching was a great profession for unmarried women. They coined the term “missionary teachers” to entice women whose mission would be to educate “ignorant and neglected children” of the frontier. The ideal school fashioned after Prussian schools that Mann admired, were based on the teaching of humanistic philosophy.
Mann particularly liked to hire women teachers because women willingly suffered the hardships of frontier life and worked at a small fraction of the cost of a male teacher. He often bragged at how much money he saved by hiring women. As people moved west, frontier schools sprang up like wildfire through the new territory.
Conclusion for the Original Intent of Public Schools Funded with Taxpayer Money: With the formation of public schools, education was taken from the church and local communities and put under the direction of the government. Those who attended church held to a high standard of morals that Mann and Beecher wanted to be taught, without any teaching on religion and certainly not a salvation experience.
If any two people can claim credit for changing American social, academic, and ultimately political direction from libertarian to one governed by the state, the credit must go to Horace Mann and Catharine Beecher. They redefined public education as America’s new, more gentle church and female teachers as the ministers of American morality.
They were able to overcome the Church’s objections and teach a secular, watered down religion that attempted to retain moral content without referring to Jesus or conversion. They were on a passionate mission, well-financed with taxpayer money, and had the social backing of the Harvard Unitarian elite.
Note: On April 26, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to begin the process of returning school control to state and local officials. If carried through, President Trump’s order is a major step in returning schools to the original intent of our founding fathers.