Education in the Middle Colonies

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Kimberly Cuthbert-Holmes                                                       November 20, 2006

Social Studies, Period 6                                                Mrs. Kral


Education in the Middle Colonies


            In the Middle Colonies, colonial leaders agreed that education was important but were not concerned with providing it. The decision of whether to educate children was left to individual families until 1683, when a Pennsylvania law was passed, requiring that all children be taught to read and write and be trained in a useful trade. Pennsylvania’s first school was established in the same year. The middle colonies were characterized by schools sponsored by many different kinds of religious denominations, rather than just the Puritan Church. There was more interest in the middle colonies in practical education. William Penn and Benjamin Franklin stressed education in Pennsylvania.

Middle Colonies drastically influenced the availability of schooling. In addition to these diverse cultural groups, all of which tended to want separate schools, there was no legal tradition, as there was in New England, which viewed providing schools as a major responsibility of a colonial government. Pennsylvania’s case amply illustrates both these conditions. The constitution (usually known as the "Frame of Government") which Penn granted to Pennsylvanians in 1682 included requirements for a public school system stressing religious values and a practical education in some skill or trade for youngsters over twelve years of age. That these ideas in Penn's mind may be considered noble, but no Governor, Assembly, or Council in the colony ever saw that they were enforced. Instead, schooling was left up to the various religious groups to handle as they chose. There were a few private non-sectarian schools in Philadelphia; these increased during the eighteenth century so that several other larger towns also had such schools.

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Dutch settlers in New York, just as with Pietists in Pennsylvania, wanted their schools to reflect closely the teachings of the church, especially the Dutch Reformed Church. Some people believe that New Amsterdam had a public school in 1633, even before Boston. However, the school was "public" in a very limited sense because it was only maintained for children whose parents belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church. Fourteen years later colonists were complaining that no school existed and that "the school is kept very irregularly, by this one or that, according to his fancy, as long as he sees fit." ...

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