Changes In Elementary Education Within The United States

1470 words - 6 pages

Changes in Elementary Education within the United States of America
From Mann to Dewey, elementary education has been an integral part of the American society. For hundreds of years, young children have been taught the importance of obtaining an education and putting it to good use. Yet, as time has progressed, colonial elementary education compared to present day elementary education has differed. Elementary education has undeniably changed over the years within the United States, from the country’s birth to present day.
Colonial Education
During the time of colonial America, elementary education was scarce. Only those who were white, upper class could afford to be educated due to the fact that education was only provided through a private tutor. Every day their lessons would consist of the same five basic subjects: reading, writing, simple math, prayers, and poetry. Because of the lack of paper and textbooks, children often repeatedly recited their lessons until they were memorized by heart. For students, the school day started at around seven o’clock in the morning, and consisted of several short breaks during the day. They would be served breakfast at nine o’clock, and then dinner from two to five o’clock in the afternoon. While the boys were at school learning more advanced subjects, girls stayed at home with their mothers in order to learn about the duties of a plantation mistress. Many of their lessons included learning proper social etiquette, French, needlework, weaving, and cooking. Eventually girls were taught to read and write, but it was only enough so that they could understand the Bible and write short letters to other plantation mistresses (“The History of Education”, n.d.).
As time passed, elementary education within the colonies slowly began to improve. During the 1700s, schools were still uncommon. Many parents had taken on the challenge of teaching their children at home by using the Bible and a hornbook (“The History of Education”, n.d.). Hornbooks were wooden boards with handles that held a lesson sheet of the alphabet or the Lord's Prayer, and were usually worn around a student's neck. Soon, primers were introduced. These little books contained pictures of animals learning to read and write, so that they would capture the interest of younger students. Copybooks also became common, seeing as how paper was so expensive. Children would practice their penmanship by copying the sentences that had been written beforehand at the top of the page (Bennett, 1986). All of their writing was done with quills and ink wells. By the 1750s, literacy rates in the New England colonies were the highest they had ever been. Around seventy-five percent of males and sixty-five percent of females could read and write. However, in the middle and southern colonies, these percentages were lower. Although the literacy rate had highly improved since the beginning of colonial times, girls were still receiving very little education. With many still...

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