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Education in the 1800’s

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, small one room schoolhouses were the standard in rural areas. Most had dirt floors and plank desks or benches. A single teacher taught grades one through eight together. The youngest students sat in the front, while the oldest sat in the back. At some schools, boys and girls entered through different doors and kept separate for lessons. The school year was much shorter in the 1800’s. When the Department of Education first began gathering data in the 1869-70 school year, students attended school for about 132 days, depending on when they were needed to help their families harvest crops and attendance was just 59 percent. By 1870, all states had public elementary schools but attendance was not mandatory. At this point, about half of the children in the U.S. received no formal education whatsoever.

In the U.S., first-grade textbooks during the 1800’s were very different than the present day. The textbooks taught simple and large terms, difficult questions and referenced the Holy Scriptures. First-grade textbooks today ask simple questions, teach basic terms and most public schools never discuss the Holy Scriptures at all. As a result, education has changed dramatically over the last 210 years in America.

In the early 1800’s, church leaders and modern liberals were concerned for the welfare of children. They believed that a strong education was not only appropriate, but an indisputable right to everyone. Teachers taught subjects including reading, writing, arithmetic, history, grammar, rhetoric and geography, as well as moral principles and civics. Students would memorize their lessons and the teacher would bring them to the front of the room as a class to recite what they’d learned. The teacher would correct them on things like pronunciation. For many, education ended after eighth grade. The average age of college entrance was just 14.

Parents wanted children to be intelligent and expected a lot from them. Therefore, discipline was very strict in schools. Simple things like looking out the window could result in a lashing. Teachers could use a ruler or pointer to lash a student’s hands. Students would also be punished by holding a heavy book for more than an hour, writing a phrase on the blackboard 100 times or wearing a dunce hat.

Education is very important in order to become a self-dependent person and there are many reasons why education is the key to success. A good education can make a large impact on your community and has the power to change a life.

This is a first-grade textbook from the year of 1808.

A first-grade textbook from the year of 1808.

A first-grade textbook from the year of 1808.

Source: Mental Floss


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