The reasons we educate our children have changed over time. However, some of the core values remain the same. One of the most important purposes of schooling is the transmission of a culture from one generation to the next. It is important to pass on our culture, values, and beliefs to our children so we continue to have a cohesive population. Schooling offers opportunity to our children by teaching them valuable skills that allow them to be self-sufficient and lead successful lives. Schooling also serves to decrease the social ills those without an education suffer from. A final purpose of education is to create people who are active in civic life.
All societies have used formal education to pass on their culture. Schools have been used for centuries to pass on religion, values, and other culturally significant principles. Our culture and curriculum are fully intertwined.
When the colonists came to America they brought with them their culture and the way they educated their children reflected that. The first colonists were very religious people and their curriculum was very faith-based. It complimented the instruction they received at church and home. As immigrants flooded into the country, life changed dramatically. As the population spread west, the typical family and social dynamics rapidly changed. People became widely dispersed, and the church’s authority and influence was no longer as important. People soon realized the way they were used to educating their children needed to adapt to their new way of life.
Initially only wealthy male children were educated. People might teach their girls to read and write their name, but many believed girls and women lacked the mental capacity to learn much beyond that. In the seventeenth century, it was common to offer boys a classical education in which they learned, Latin, Greek, and studied classical literature. With the changing society and shifting values, a classical education became impractical.
The educational needs of this new culture were reflected in the beliefs of some of the great Colonial thinkers. For example, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, Noah Webster, and Thomas Jefferson, realized there was a need to form a cohesive singular culture to maintain all that had been worked for. They felt school should serve two main purposes. The first purpose was to unify the population. By sending all children to school they could learn tolerance and cooperation. The second reason was to teach children reading, writing, math, and other useful skills. By doing this, a base of intelligent citizens and good workers could be built.
One significant characteristic of a culture is a common language. School provides an excellent platform to teach a large group of people a common language. In the eighteenth century America was populated by immigrants who spoke different languages. If they spoke English, they often spoke different dialects. Noah Webster felt the different dialects people spoke...