Thursday, September 2, 2021

Here at the Library: Back to School

 Here at the Library

    This week and last week marks the beginning of the school year for many in our area. We are fortunate to have a public school system that educates our children and prepares them for the next phase in their lives. This wasn't always the case. In today's Here at the Library, we're looking at the Public School System and how it came to be.

    Years ago, homeschooling wasn't a novelty, it was all there was. Parents taught their children, or if the family was wealthy enough, a private tutor was hired.

    The Puritans were the first in America to point out the need for education for the masses. They established schools to teach not just reading, writing, and mathematics but to further their own personal agenda and reinforce the core values of Puritanism.

Horace Mann

    In the 1840s a few public schools were found in various places around the country but communities that could afford these schools were few and far between. This wasn't good enough for Horace Mann and Henry Barnard. These two men began a crusade for free school for everyone in the United States.

    Massachusetts, Horace Mann's home state, passed the first compulsory school laws in 1852. New York did the same in 1853. By 1918 all American children were required to attend at least primary, what is now known as elementary, school. 

    Secondary, or high school, came later. American high schools were mainly considered to be prep school for students who were going to attend college. By 1910 high school has transformed into core elements of the common school system and had larger goals of preparing students for work after high school. This made the popularity of high schools grow exponentially. From 200,000 students in 1890 to nearly 1,000,000 in 1910 to almost 2,000,000 by 1920. Graduates found jobs, especially in the growing white-collar sector. Cities all across the country raced to build high schools.

    In the 1880s high schools started developing as centers of the community. Sports were added and by the 1920s the schools were building gymnasiums that attracted large local crowds to basketball and other games. This was especially true in small town schools where high school matches were often the only form of entertainment. 

    There is a very basic overview of how our public school system came to be. We have tons of information on our local school districts here at the library if you're interested as well as other material about Pennsylvania's education policies. 

    To all the students out there, have a wonderful school year! Learn all you can!!

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