Jul 12

Purpose of Colonial Education

“The educational policies of the Massachusetts Bay Colony have been considered the precursors to the development of public schooling in the United States and to the belief that public schools could end crime, eliminate poverty, provide equal opportunity, improve the economy, train workers, and create social and political stability” (Spring, 2011, 12). Educators of the early Colonists taught them to read and write so they could obey the laws and the government could maintain control of the colonies. This government control was believed to limit freedom of thought and placed too much emphasis on government in the educational process. “Some people argued that intellectual freedom could be achieved only by separating schools from religious organizations and the government” (Spring, 2011, 13). Although Colonial education was said to teach young children to obey laws, there was still a separation between colonial schools and public schools. There was a definite distinction between the elite of colonial schools and the rest of the population of public schools. After reading these thoughts of separation, the learner reflected on the segregation and separation of modern school students. Families register their children in private Christian schools because of their dissatisfaction with public school education and policies, hoping their children can acquire Christian education and values not taught in public schools. In reality, that Christian education is the parent responsibility as commanded in the Old Testament of the Bible in Deuteronomy 6:6-9:

“Write these commandments that I have given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.”

Regardless of the social status of individuals or families, “the purpose of teaching reading and writing was to ensure not only that individuals read the Bible and religious tracts, but also that they became good workers and obeyed the laws of the community” (Spring, 2011, 16). Unlike modern schools, the Bible was a text of colonial education. Unless young students attend private Christian schools, they are not exposed to Biblical curriculum and, therefore, have limited study of civic education to teach students to obey laws (Great Schools, 2013). To achieve some of the purposes of colonial educational policies, schools need to return to civic education and theories of teaching children to obey laws. However, there are too many educational standards present in school curricula that this concept would require a great deal of reorganization.


Spring, R (2011). The American School: A Global Context from the Puritans to the Obama Era. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

“The State of Civic Education: Teaching the Citizens of Tomorrow.” GreatSchools. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2013. <http://www.greatschools.org/students/academic-skills/162-the-state-of-civic-education-teaching-the-citizens-of-tomorrow.gs>.

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