Part 1: 1700 – 1890
Public education was not created because the 3 R’s are fun or good for society. Public education was created by the elite and industrialist to build a submissive work force. Even Thomas Jefferson thought the working class was “rubbish” but held out hope that from the rubbish some may advance.
1779 – Thomas Jefferson thinks the working class are “rubbish”
Thomas Jefferson proposes a two-track educational system, with different tracks in his words for “the laboring and the learned.” Scholarship would allow a very few of the laboring class to advance, Jefferson says, by “raking a few geniuses from the rubbish.”
1790 – Educating the Poor
Pennsylvania state constitution calls for free public education but only for poor children. It is expected that rich people will pay for their children’s schooling.
1805 – Discipline and Obedience (building better factory workers)
New York Public School Society formed by wealthy businessmen to provide education for poor children. Schools are run on the “Lancasterian” model, in which one “master” can teach hundreds of students in a single room. The master gives a rote lesson to the older students, who then pass it down to the younger students. These schools emphasize discipline and obedience qualities that factory owners want in their workers.
1817 – Taxing us, calling it free and again turning us into obedient workers for the rich.
A petition presented in the Boston Town Meeting calls for establishing of a system of free public primary schools. Main support comes from local merchants, businessmen and wealthier artisans. Many wage earners oppose it, because they don’t want to pay the taxes.
1820-1860 – Industry needs a docile, obedient workforce.
The percentage of people working in agriculture plummets as family farms are gobbled up by larger agricultural businesses and people are forced to look for work in towns and cities. At the same time, cities grow tremendously, fueled by new manufacturing industries, the influx of people from rural areas and many immigrants from Europe. During the 10 years from 1846 to 1856, 3.1 million immigrants arrive a number equal to one eighth of the entire U.S. population. Owners of industry needed a docile, obedient workforce and look to public schools to provide it.
1837 The wealth financially support public education to build better workers
Horace Mann becomes head of the newly formed Massachusetts State Board of Education. Edmund Dwight, a major industrialist, thinks a state board of education was so important to factory owners that he offered to supplement the state salary with extra money of his own.
1848 – Forced public education begins
Massachusetts Reform School at Westboro opens, where children who have refused to attend public schools are sent. This begins a long tradition of “reform schools,” which combine the education and juvenile justice systems.
1851 – Teaching Obedience and restraint = better workers
State of Massachusetts passes first its compulsory education law. The goal is to make sure that the children of poor immigrants get “civilized” and learn obedience and restraint, so they make good workers and don’t contribute to social upheaval.