Massachusetts Passes the First Education Law

Massachusetts Bay Colony passed the first law in the New World requiring that children be taught to read and write. The Massachusetts School Laws were three legislative acts of 1642, 1647 and 1648 enacted in the Massachusetts Bay Colony with he most famous by far, the law of 1647, also known as the Old Deluder Satan Law (after the law’s first sentence). The English Puritans who founded Massachusetts believed that the well-being of individuals, along with the success of the colony, depended on a people literate enough to read both the Bible and the laws of the land. Concerned that parents were ignoring the first law, in 1647 Massachusetts passed another one requiring that all towns establish and maintain public schools. It would be many years before these schools were open to all children. Only in the mid-nineteenth century was universal free public schooling guaranteed – in time, made compulsory — for Massachusetts children.

Background

When the Mayflower arrived in Plymouth in 1620, far off from their intended destination, priorities mainly consisted of survival and religious faith. Half of the pilgrims perished during their dangerous journey when finally landing in America there was no room for thoughts on education. Fifteen years later the first public school is established in Boston. A year after that Massachusetts establishes their first college, Harvard. It was these coming years that education started to become present as a forward movement towards public education.

The Massachusetts Law of 1642 set motion and laid foundation for a “mandatory” education. This law states that all parents and masters must have their children or dependents educated to read and write so that they may be able to “read the english tongue, & knowledge of the Capital Lawes: upon penaltie of twentie shillings for each neglect therin”. Basic reading and writing comprehension was important to understand capitol laws and religious rites. The law also holds parents and masters accountable for their dependents effectively pursuing the mandates of the law. Also addressed is the possibility of parents or masters not being able to or willing to educate well enough as stated in the law that they must then, “bring up their children & apprentices in some honest lawful calling, labour or imployment, either in husbandry, or some other trade profitable for themselves, and the Common-wealth” The law then states that if select men still find parents and masters being “negligent of their duties” they then,“…said Select men with the help of two Magistrates, or the next County court for that Shire, shall take such children or apprentices from them & place them with some masters for years”. The importance of raising children with an education that would fit their life started to expand to the point where children would be taken from their home and put in another to insure they received the education the legislators wanted. This last part however, leads us into The Massachusetts School Law of 1647, also known as The Old Deluder Act of 1647.

It was found that parents and masters did not take news of the law of 1642 very seriously, and in some ways were brushed off by parents and masters. As a result the law of 1647 required, “every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to fifty households shall forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read, whose wages shall be paid either by the parents or masters of such children, or by the inhabitants in general, by way of supply”. Meaning, any town with 50 or more families must hire someone within the town to teach reading and writing and will be paid by the parents or masters. The law further states that towns with 100 or more families are to form a Grammar School to prepare children for Harvard College, only if they are “fitted” for university. As with the law of 1642, there are repercussions if parents and masters chose to disregard the law that, “every such town shall pay 5 pounds to the next school till they shall perform this order.”

Religion and faith had a lot to do with the Massachusetts School Laws. Knowledge of religious rites was a superior way of living and added significant personal growth. The only way for future children to achieve it was some body of basic education, to read and write. Furthermore, the law of 1647 paved the way for our future public school systems while the law of 1642 set the way of mandatory education in America. It is interesting now how religion is no longer allowed to be discussed in elementary schools and sometimes considerably controversial.

Works Cited

  • “Massachusetts School Laws.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 15 Feb. 2011.
  • O’Callaghan, Christine. “What Does the Massachusetts Law of 1642 Mean? – by Christine O’Callaghan – Helium.” Helium – Where Knowledge Rules. Www.helium.com. Web. 12 Feb. 2011.
  • “The Old Deluder Act (1647).” Laughter and Lawter Genealogy Research Center. Web. 15 Feb. 2011.
  • United States of America. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. State Online Services. Mass.Gov. Web. 2 Feb. 2011.
  • United States of America. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. State Online Services. Mass.Gov. Web. 2 Feb. 2011.

Recommended:

DVD: IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America

Are the humanistic programs promoted in American public schools designed to undermine the influence of Christianity? Discover the answer to this and other provocative questions when you join filmmaker Colin Gunn and his family on a road trip to New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and the Creation Museum. Features interviews with Ken Ham, Erwin Lutzer, Doug Phillips, R.C. Sproul, and others.


This book documents the inherently flawed nature of America’s public school system as currently structured. Contemporary recommendations for correcting the system invariably treat symptoms rather than the inherent problem over government control over parental and religious rights.
This book documents that:
1)Education is a religious endeavor and that freedom of religion is guaranteed in the United States
2)Parents have an inalienable right to raise their children free from government constraints on education
3)Civil government is to protect and not deprive citizens of their inalienable rights
4)The educational history of our country affirms that education has always had a religious function
5)Recent interpretations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments are both misguided and opposite from their original meanings
6)Federal control of education and education taxation is outside the legitimate authority of the U.S. Constitution, and
7)Government control of education at federal, state, and local levels is inherently tyrannical
Addressed in separate chapters, the above-mentioned issues, individually and collectively, build a compelling case for the establishment of government control and the return of parental control to education. To quote James Madison, government should relate to education in the same way as it does to religion—not to ”intermeddle” with it.

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