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Oldest/First Public School in America


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For my Genius Hour project, I decided to learn more about how the American education came about. I took a liking in this particular topic due to my interest in one day possibly going into the education field. As I did my research for this particular report, I learned that our country had no form of education whatsoever until almost 200 years after the country was founded, other than parents teaching their children to read and write from the comforts of their own homes. I found it very interesting how we still have this similar concept of parents teaching their kids from home, now known as home schooling rather than the normal public schooling.

The first public school in America was established in April of 1635. It was founded in Boston, Massachusetts, by Reverend John Cotton. The founder of the school was looking to start a school similar to the Free Grammar School of Boston, England, where Latin and Greek were taught. The school is still to this day known as the Boston Latin School, and it began a new kind of education for American children. Before public schools in America, kids we were educated at home. Their parents would teach them to read and write at home and in church, but they quickly found that to be insufficient leading them to fund the first public school, according to the high school’s article over the school’s history.

The first school has educated five of the 56 signers of the US Constitution: Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, and William Hooper. The school is also where Benjamin Franklin, being the fifth signer, became a high school dropout. The school is still open now; it currently is educating approximately 2,400 students. Since the school started in 1635, it has taught its students dissent with responsibility and has persistently encouraged such dissent. This is one thing I think we lack in today’s schools is responsibility; no one ever seems to be responsible for themselves anymore. Instead they force it upon someone else to take care of their responsibilities.

When the first school started, the classes were held in the master’s home, according to the Boston Latin School’s website. At the beginning of the school’s opening, the town assigned local public funds to support the school. After some time it was finally voted “to allow forever fifty pounds to the Master, and a house, and thirty pounds to an usher,” an usher was the assistant teacher. The very first master of the school was Master Philemon Pormort with Daniel Maude as his usher who eventually became Master in 1638 and held classes in his own home until the year 1643 rolled around. In 1734 John Lovell became Master; during his term the students admissions’ were determined by having them read a few Bible verses. This completely differs from today where a teacher can’t even talk about his faith without getting in trouble.

A school day then and a school day now are very different; now students just go to school 8 o’clock in the morning to 3 o’clock in the afternoon a total of 7 hours, but their school days started at 7 o’clock in the summer and 8 o’clock in the winter. Instead of going for a straight 7 hours, students would get a break; they would get to leave at 11 o’clock and come back around 1 o’clock and finally get to go home and leave around 5 o’clock in the evening. Some students after leaving at 11 or 5 or some days even both would go attend a writing school that was nearby. This is also crazy to me because no one I know in today’s society would just go to another class after school was over, but this is also similar to our after school programs we have today.


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One Response to “Oldest/First Public School in America”

  1. McKayla Thompson on October 22nd, 2017 1:22 pm

    Great article Josie! Glad you’re very interested in your topic, and already have researched all about it! This article is filled with great information and interesting facts. Good job!


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Lewis Cass High School, Walton, Indiana,
Oldest/First Public School in America