Education in the Thirteen Colonies
during the 17th and 18th centuries varied considerably depending on one's location, race, gender, and social class. Basic education in literacy
was widely available, especially to whites residing in the northern and middle colonies, and the literacy rate was relatively high. Educational opportunities were much sparser in the rural South.
Primary and secondary education
The New England Puritans
valued education, both for the sake of religious study (which was facilitated by Bible reading) and for the sake of economic success. A 1647 Massachusetts
mandated that every town of 50 or more families support an elementary school and every town of 100 or more families support a grammar school, where boys could learn Latin in preparation for college. In practice, some New England towns had difficulty keeping their schools open and staffed, but virtually all New England towns made an effort to provide a school for their children. Both boys and girls attended the elementary schools (though sometimes at different hours or different seasons), and there they learned to read, write, and cipher. In the mid-Atlantic region, private and sectarian schools filled the same niche as the New England "common schools."
The South, which was overwhelmingly rural, had few schools of any sort until the Revolutionary era. Wealthy children studied with private tutors; middling children might learn to read from literate parents or older... Read More