Chapter 1 in Fraser’s The School in the United States: A Documentary History (2001, pp 1-16) outlined prominent attitudes and philosophies regarding schooling in the North American colonies in 1620-1770. During this time necessary education was provided mainly through the family, church and community. Three cultures were interacting at this time including Native Americans, African Americans and Europeans. The differences in these cultures lead to many clashes in how the children were educated. These clashes usually were taken care of by the force and dominance of the Europeans. Native American children were taken away from their families in order to educate them the American way. Slave owners also often did not support the education of their slaves due to the fear of losing them to freedom. In 1711 it was necessary to enact a law stating that slaves could not be freed based on their level of education. In 1642 a law required that heads of households be responsible for the literacy of all children in the home. In 1647 this was extended to the establishment of a school for every town.
It is hard to imagine today a time when it was acceptable to kidnap children because of their culture in order to educate them according to a dominant philosophy. I question the motives of the times that promoted this practice. Did they really believe that the children would be better off or were they simply trying to exert their dominance and maintain power? Do you think that the children WERE better off getting educated by the Europeans during this time?
Looking back from my vantage point today, I believe there were much better alternatives to some of the actions that were taken back then in the name of education. However, “presentism” (Fritzberg, 2013) may cause us to be quick to condemn reformers of this era on the grounds that they were short sighted and intolerant of differences. We come to this conclusion with the advantage of knowing what has transpired historically since then. Maybe we would have not been so critical during those times if we did not have the knowledge and experiences we have today…
Fraser, J. W. (2010). The School in the United States: A Documentary History. New York, NY: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
Fritzberg, G. (2013, April 9). Re: Summary remarks on the colonial era [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from: https://bbweb-prod.spu.edu/webapps/portal/