It was back in the 17th century when America saw its first school. Boston Latin School established in 1635 was the first public and is the oldest existing school in United States. Education in America initially started at homes with parents teaching the basics of literacy and arithmetic. By the mid 19th century, this responsibility of imparting education was taken up by schools. By the 1640s, the colonies in America started setting up schools which were predominantly made for males with very few meant for girls. By the 1780s the public schools in the colonies were replaced by private ones.
In the southern parts of the state, the poor people studied under the local parish or were home schooled. In Georgia, however there were grammar schools run by government funds. It was found that literacy was high in places with schools.
There was a system in New England in 1767 according to which education to girls was tax-supported. But many rich families in Northampton, Massachusetts till 1800 did not want to part away with a little section of their income to support the poor families. Further, the common belief that men were supposed to handle the public affairs and thus were required to learn to read as well as write was followed in America as well. Hence colonial era taught writing only to boys.
By 1840, the male subjects like mathematics and philosophy was introduced in girls’ schools. The concept of Republican Motherhood developed by Lydia Maria Child, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, and Lydia Sigourney enhanced the position of women and stressed on the need for girls’ education. That women had a role in nation building was realized during this period thus giving rise to an elite class of well read and educated women who served as better wives and mothers.
Colleges were initially started by religious denominations so that they could train people to read the Bible and become ministers. For instance Harvard was opened with this aim but students later on went into law, medicine, government or business. Colleges during this time were small with limited number of subjects. Fees were less and there was also less number of scholarships.
Public schools grew with the Revolution. Free elementary education started after 1870 during which the U.S. population had the highest literacy rate. The Progressive Movement in the later years gave birth to the progressive era in education that extended from 1890s to 1930s. This period saw the rapid growth of high schools in even small cities besides the big metropolitan ones. Booker T. Washington played an important role in supporting education among the blacks in America. He not only had his own college but had connections with many such colleges and schools.
Many reforms and policies have been passed which have enhanced the quality of education in U.S. A significant one in this regard is “No Child Left Behind” which believed that every child should receive education.