A Look at the
of 17th Century America by: Karma Mattison
In the beginning of 17th century America, parents were the main source of education. The earliest recording of a formal teacher comes from Plymouth
Colony in 1633. A father named Samuel Fuller relinquished the education of his two young children to one Margaret Hicks while on his death bed. Margaret’s qualifications are not known, and it is not certain whether she took on other pupils. Meanwhile, in Boston, the first public school in America was founded in 1635 by
Reverend John Cotton. Philemon Portmort was appointed schoolmaster. While not much is known about him, he taught some of America’s finest, including
Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Robert Paine, and William
In 1658, a law was passed in Plymouth that every town in the colony was required to have a schoolmaster. Records suggest that this law was largely ignored, as the first teacher with a sanctioned schoolhouse was not recorded until 1672. This teacher was a Harvard graduate named Ammi Ruhamah Corlet.
Young children were often taught by their families or by unmarried women that may or may not be paid and were held to high moral standards while being given little to no training, while college professor positions were reserved for males.
Question to consider in this section:
* Why was the concept of trained educators not a priority in 17 th century
caught on. Students had to be able to spare the materials and time away from home to attend a school if there even was one nearby. Basics such as reading and counting would be taught to the majority of children at home. Even among the wealthy, girls were often excluded from learning much past the ability to read Bible verses and recognize figures when making purchases. Boys would go on to learn foreign languages and higher level math if their parents could afford it, sometimes going on to boarding schools back across the ocean in England. Fortunately, there were some opportunities for college level education in America by the end of the 1600s. Here again, however, only the best, brightest, and richest boys could attend.
Questions to consider in this section:
*What impact did reserving higher education for wealthy boys have on maintaining class structure in early America?
*why would poor families choose not to send their children to school
Schools in the 17th century
From Private Homes to Simple Buildings
While Paper and Pencils were to be provided by the families of students, some materials were provided by most schools. These included:
Simple slate boards and chalk Some printed books, often religious text
Hornbooks that had information to memorize, like letters and prayers
• As stated previously, the majority of early education was administered at home. If a child lived in an area where there was a schoolmaster, often these more formal lessons would take place in the private home of that teacher. By