Over the new few months, I will share with readers of The Marengo-Union Times the history of the United State’s public school education system. I will begin with its inception in Puritan and Congregationalist religious schools in the 1600’s, and the subsequent availability of free elementary education as an outcome of the Common School reformers, led by Horace Mann in the 1800’s. The story will continue on to the sweeping and dramatic changes of the 1900’s, concluding with today’s public school. Along the way, I hope to spend some time sharing the history of public schools in Illinois and the Marengo-Union area. Finally, the articles will explore the legacy and impact of specific individuals as they changed the face of the American education system and the social, legal, and cultural outcome of their efforts.
The American public school system differs from many other public school systems worldwide, in that the responsibility of those systems belongs to the states and the individual school districts within the states. Thomas Jefferson was the first American leader to be an advocate for creating a public school system that allowed for all children to receive the basic and rudimentary education. The very first schools were in existence in the early 1600’s in the colonies of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. These schools were founded on the religious principles of the Puritans and Congregationalists. The educational scope of these schools were very limited-- sometimes only a few weeks long--and were taught by the clergy using the religious texts of the day. In general, only boys were allowed to attend. However, as more people came to America, so did more varied religious groups. This somewhat organized form of schooling began to wane.
Reference material: School- The Story of American Public Education. Beacon Press. 2001