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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > Family Life 1780-1820 > Education
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Education : Educated Citizens


The religious, economic and political climate of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries stimulated literacy in England's North American colonies. The belief that only an educated people could maintain a free government strengthened this commitment to education in the years following the American Revolution. Literacy rates in New England continued to outstrip most other places in the world, including the southern United States. Although the law did not require children to attend school in New England, it did require towns to provide schools and schoolteachers. Since most American children lived and worked on farms, the agricultural schedule dictated when schools were in session. New England schools, for example, generally held a winter term and a summer term.

Children in New England rarely had to walk more than a mile to get to school because towns divided themselves into several districts. In the southern states, a widely distributed population meant that going away to a private school or being tutored remained the only options for most southern white children. Owners generally denied slaves access to any education at all; in some states, it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write.

Schools in this period required teachers to teach only those subjects for which scholars brought books. The youngest children (some as young as two or three) learned their letters, phonetic syllables and words by rote before progressing to simple sentences. Older scholars might bring a reader, an arithmetic, a geography or even a history book. There were no grades; mastery of a subject rather than age determined placement.

By the turn of the century, there arose interest in how to teach more effectively. Reformers began to argue for the use of blackboards, globes and other visual aids. Horace Mann of Massachusetts encouraged the use of uniform textbooks and safer, more comfortable schoolhouses in Massachusetts. This picture of a schoolroom incorporates many of these new features. Note the model of the solar system and the map on the wall. At the same time, the scholars still sit upon backless benches and stand up to recite in a group, parrot-fashion.


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Frontispiece "The Young Reader; To Go With The Spelling Book"

publisher   George F. Cooledge
date   1835
location   New York
width   4.0"
height   6.0"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Books/Textbook / Schoolbooks
accession #   #L00.011ex

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See Also...

"The Young Reader; To Go With The Spelling Book"

Wooden inkwell

Map "The world agreeable to the latest discoveries"

Astronomical apparatus

"A Sequel to Webster's Elem. Spelling Book: or A Speller & Definer"

"A System of Modern Geography, Comprising a Description of the Present State of the World..."

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