Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Massachusetts School Law of 1642 and 1647

When the Mayflower arrived in Plymouth in 1620, far off from their intended destination, priorities mainly consisted of survival and religious faith. Half of the pilgrims perished during their dangerous journey when finally landing in America there was no room for thoughts on education. Fifteen years later the first public school is established in Boston. A year after that Massachusetts establishes their first college, Harvard. It was these coming years that education started to become present as a forward movement towards public education.

The Massachusetts Law of 1642 set motion and laid foundation for a “mandatory” education. This law states that all parents and masters must have their children or dependents educated to read and write so that they may be able to “read the english tongue, & knowledge of the Capital Lawes: upon penaltie of twentie shillings for each neglect therin”. Basic reading and writing comprehension was important to understand capitol laws and religious rites. The law also holds parents and masters accountable for their dependents effectively pursuing the mandates of the law. Also addressed is the possibility of parents or masters not being able to or willing to educate well enough as stated in the law that they must then, “bring up their children & apprentices in some honest lawful calling, labour or imployment, either in husbandry, or some other trade profitable for themselves, and the Common-wealth” The law then states that if select men still find parents and masters being “negligent of their duties” they then,“…said Select men with the help of two Magistrates, or the next County court for that Shire, shall take such children or apprentices from them & place them with some masters for years”. The importance of raising children with an education that would fit their life started to expand to the point where children would be taken from their home and put in another to insure they received the education the legislators wanted. This last part however, leads us into The Massachusetts School Law of 1647, also known as The Old Deluder Act of 1647.

It was found that parents and masters did not take news of the law of 1642 very seriously, and in some ways were brushed off by parents and masters. As a result the law of 1647required, "every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to fifty households shall forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read, whose wages shall be paid either by the parents or masters of such children, or by the inhabitants in general, by way of supply". Meaning, any town with 50 or more families must hire someone within the town to teach reading and writing and will be paid by the parents or masters. The law further states that towns with 100 or more families are to form a Grammar School to prepare children for Harvard College, only if they are "fitted" for university. As with the law of 1642, there are repercussions if parents and masters chose to disregard the law that, "every such town shall pay 5 pounds to the next school till they shall perform this order."

Religion and faith had a lot to do with the Massachusetts School Laws. Knowledge of religious rites was a superior way of living and added significant personal growth. The only way for future children to achieve it was some body of basic education, to read and write. Furthermore, the law of 1647 paved the way for our future public school systems while the law of 1642 set the way of mandatory education in America. It is interesting now how religion is no longer allowed to be discussed in elementary schools and sometimes considerably controversial.

Works Cited
"Massachusetts School Laws." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 15 Feb. 2011. .
O'Callaghan, Christine. "What Does the Massachusetts Law of 1642 Mean? - by Christine O'Callaghan - Helium." Helium - Where Knowledge Rules. Www.helium.com. Web. 12 Feb. 2011. .
"The Old Deluder Act (1647)." Laughter and Lawter Genealogy Research Center. Web. 15 Feb. 2011. .
United States of America. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. State Online Services. Mass.Gov. Web. 2 Feb. 2011. .
United States of America. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. State Online Services. Mass.Gov. Web. 2 Feb. 2011.

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