The dominance of the New England Primer in the 1700's and the McGuffey
Readers in the 1800's, shows that Education was Christian and
Biblical throughout this period. The Constitution and the First
Amendment were never understood to prohibit state and local governments
from encouraging the teaching of religion in all schools.
But the point is inescapable. The Bible was taught in public schools
long after the Constitution was ratified. Even while Horace Mann was
active, the New England Primer was still being used:
That Cotton Mather's injunctions were not simply the ravings of a
[fanatic] minister is attested by the whole content and spirit of the New
England Primer which was the most widely read school book in
America for 100 years. The best estimate is made that some 3,000,000
copies were sold from 1700 to 1850.
Butts & Cremin, A History of Education in American Culture,
Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1953, p.69
No one believed this to be unconstitutional (except a few wiggy and
blasphemous prototypes of the ACLU, who were always ruled against in
Subject: Re: Wall of Separation
To: Separation of Church & State
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com
>We had no mandatory education for the
first 150 years of the republic, or so.
>We found that illiteracy prevailed, that education was not so deeply
>as we need to be successful economically.
>It's mandatory because mandatory education produces huge benefits
Let's see, if we date the beginning of the Republic at 1776, that
would mean no mandatory education until 1926? But Justices Frankfurter,
Burton, Jackson and Rutledge noted in the McCollum case that the first
compulsory common school legislation was in 1648. And Ghostwriterfax's
article said the Northwest Ordinance (1787) was intended to make
Perhaps the reason secularists are so confused is that they are
confusing compulsory education with compulsory SECULAR education
paid for by the state. Compulsory education does not have to mean state
financed education. It is possible to have a law requiring
everyone to attend a religious private school.
Which is basically what we had for the first 200 years of American
history, with state financing gradually appearing and becoming
entrenched in the 1800's. Then the clergy of rival denominations got
upset because the state was funding the other guys sectarianism. The
answer is getting rid of all state funding.
And the rise of compulsory government education wasn't due to great
illiteracy, either. John Taylor Gatto, New York State Public School
Teacher of the Year, author of Dumbing us Down, The Exhausted School,
and The Empty Child has noted:
[I]n 1818, 34 years before the first compulsory [state] school
laws, Noah Webster estimated that over five million copies of his Spelling
Book had been sold in a country of under twenty million
population. And when you consider that every purchase decision had to
be made freely by an individual or a family and that there were no
federal, state or city tabs on which to run bulk purchases, it would
seem to suggest that most people don't have to be tricked or compelled
to learn; most people in a natural setting will do it on their own
because they want to. Each Spelling Book purchase decision was
made privately. In each case someone forked over some cash to buy a
book. According to the American Library Association, only one adult
American in every 11 does that any more; so you can see we must have
been radically literate by modern standards in those by-gone
1813 and 1823, Walter Scott sold five million copies of his novels in
the U.S., equal to about 60 million books today; James Fenimore
Cooper's books (think of Last of the Mohicans) also sold in the
millions. Pick up a Cooper or a Scott at your local library, and you
will discover both authors write complex, highly allusive prose, not
easy reading even by a college student today.
1812 Pierre DuPont de Nemous published Education in the United
States, a book in which he expressed his amazement at the
phenomenal literacy he saw. Forty years before passage of our first
compulsory [state] school laws, DuPont said that fewer than four out
of every thousand people in the new nation could not read and do
numbers well. Looking around himself and comparing America with the
Continental traditions he had left behind, he saw a world in which
nearly every child was skilled in argumentation (the old-fashioned
term for "critical thinking") because of the widespread
habit of involving young children in disputes about the meaning of
ambiguous Bible passages, or so that seemed the explanation to Mr.
DuPont. [Gatto is not a Christian].
John Adams discovered in 1765 that a "native of America,
especially of New England, who cannot read and write is as rare a
Phenomenon as a Comet." Daniel Webster said that "a youth of
fifteen, of either sex, who cannot read and write, is very seldom to be
|Education historian Lawrence A. Cremin, who has
written several books about American education, has concluded
that literacy rates among American whites were as high or
higher than in provincial England, and significantly above
those in Ireland.
At a time when estimates of adult male literacy in
England ran from 48 percent in the rural western midlands to
74 percent in the towns . . . adult male literacy in the
American colonies seems to have run from 70 percent to
virtually 100 percent . . . .
(See Traditions of American Education, NY: Basic
Books, 1977, and American Education: The Colonial
Experience, NY: Harper & Row, 1970.)
Kennedy & Newcombe
What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?
Thomas Nelson, 1994, p. 49
And more important to a good Republic, as the Founders all agreed,
these kids had good manners and law-abiding character.
I don't see this today. Maybe I'm laboring under the lies of the
Reagan Administration Education Report which opened by stating that if a
foreign power had imposed our present education system and results on
us, we would view it as an act of war. I understand that nearly HALF of
ALL highschool graduates leave school functionally illiterate.
The Founding Fathers were right, as DeTocqueville noted: "Religion
is the road to knowledge." Take out religion and morality from
schools and you also take out knowledge.
Subject: Compulsory schooling vs. Compulsory education
To: Separation of Church & State
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com
>I wrote in an earlier post:
>We had no mandatory education for the first 150
>years of the republic, or so.
>>We found that illiteracy prevailed, that education was not so
>>as we need to be successful economically.
>>It's mandatory because mandatory education produces huge
benefits for the
>Kevin said: >>Let's see, if
we date the beginning of the Republic at 1776,
>would mean no mandatory education until 1926? But Justices
>Frankfurter, Burton, Jackson and Rutledge noted in the McCollum
>case that the first compulsory common school legislation was
>in 1648. <<
>So how many kids were covered by that 1648 legislation? 10?
The law specifically applies to every community with more than 50.
>The fact is that compulsory
education laws by states were not passed until
>after the 1890s.
Is that a typo?!?
>While Massachusetts had a law
requiring schools, attendance
>was no compulsory and was in any case, very rare. Schooling of
any sort was
>uncommon until the 19th century and the rise of the public schools.
>Schooling past 8th grade was extremely rare until the 20th century
>rise of compulsory education. Compulsory education was not the
law in the
>majority of the states until the 20th century, and graduation from
>school not a majority circumstance until after Wordl War II.
>Kevin, if you get the history right, you have half the battle.
I urge you to
>get some normal history books about education.
"Normal" is of course defined as any book which agrees with
Ed's secular mythology. The latest highly-praised book by John Taylor
Gatto would certainly not be considered "normal" by Ed. Click
here for details.
Ghostwriterfax's article said the Northwest Ordinance
>(1787) was intended to make education compulsory.<<
>So on this one point now you accept Ghostwrtrfx2's word as solid,
>reject everything else the man writes? That's quite
disingenuous, isn't it?
Why would it be? I reject most of what Justice Douglas says, except
when he admits that the Establishment Clause never covered prayer in
schools, and when he admits that the Northwest Ordinance perpetuated the
teaching of religion in public schools. Even a broken clock is correct
twice a day.
>Did he write that? There is
not a shred of evidence to support that the
>Congress intended to make education compulsory. At the time
>Jefferson's law on land disposal, they rejected wholesale his
I'll be quoting that paragraph next time Ed asserts Jefferson's role
in public education.
the reason secularists are so confused is that they are
>confusing compulsory education with compulsory SECULAR education
>paid for by the state. Compulsory education does not have to mean
>state financed education. It is possible to have a law requiring
>everyone to attend a religious private school.<<
>I'm not confused at all. Compulsory education does not require
>financed education. No state requires that.
No state law mandates government funds for education???
>Compulsory education laws only
>require that kids go to schools that are accredited or in other ways
>basic standards. Home schooling counts, religious schools
If you're rich enough. Poor kids get crumbs from the secularists'
>The only confusion results when
Kevin and other revisionists try to state
>history different from the way it is in order to provide support for
>arguments that the true history won't.
Don't believe Ed's footnote-free mythology. Read
John Taylor Gatto's book.
is basically what we had for the first 200 years of American history,
>with state financing gradually appearing and becoming entrenched in
>1800's. Then the clergy
>of rival denominations got upset because the state was funding the
>sectarianism. The answer is getting rid of all state funding.<<
>The schools under the Old Deluder Satan bill were not state funded.
Regrettably, they sometimes were.
As the Mass.
Dept of Education states:
In the 1640s Massachusetts officials acknowledged the importance of
literacy by passing a series of laws establishing schools in America.
It being one chief object of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men
from the knowledge of the scriptures,. . . it is therefore ordered,
that every township . . . after the Lord hath increased them to the
number of fifty householders, . . . shall . . . appoint one within
their town to teach all children as shall resort to him to read and
write. It is further ordered, that where any town shall increase to
the number of one hundred families . . . they shall set up a grammar
school, the master thereof being able to instruct youth so far as
they may be fitted for the university.
--from the Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647
The ability to read and write was seen as vital to maintaining the
religious culture based on the scriptures. Beginning reading materials
consisted of the Lord's Prayer, selections from the Bible, and other
doctrinal religious material. Grammar schools mandated by the Old
Deluder Satan Act were called Latin schools because their students
also studied classical languages to prepare them for entrance into
Harvard where they were trained for the ministry or the law.
Rutgers University has published Andrew Coulson's book Market
Education: The Unknown History (1999) Reviewed
here. He documents the growth of state financing and the
accompanying decline in standards. He also shows that state-run
education was not motivated by any desire to wipe out illiteracy --
literacy was high -- but by the desire for control and regimentation.
>state did away with sectarian education in these privately-funded
>because sectarian education is, they found, immoral and
I suppose Ed can quote that part of the Constitution which gives the
State the power to remove religion from privately-funded schools.
>Sectarian education sows strife
unnecessarily. Sectarian education continues
>the evils of sectarianism in Europe that led to 1,500 years of
>churches and governments.
I don't know of a single person who favors the teaching of
sectarianism in government-run schools. Horace Mann, who lead the fight
against sectarianism in Massachusetts, also led the fight for
Biblically-based religious education in the state's common schools.
Christian education was never considered "sectarian."
Presbyterian education was, as was Roman Catholic education. But not
generic Christian education.
>It's not state funding that is the
issue -- it is the refusal of some
>sectarian partisans to accept facts as facts. They are
irritated that the
>founders established religious freedom in the U.S., and they wish
>cover it up from school kids.
Along with religious freedom, the Founders also established religious
education. Non-sectarian religious education.
>They are unhappy that they cannot
conduct a new American Inquisition against
>innocent school children, and so they cry "separatism," as
if the American
>War Between the States had never happened.
More lies. Nobody supports forcing atheists to do or believe
anything. What is being defended is the rights of 29 students to pray;
what is being denied is the right of one atheist to scuttle the free
exercise of the other 29.
the rise of compulsory government education wasn't due to great
>illiteracy, either. John Taylor Gatto, New York State
>Public School Teacher of the Year, author of Dumbing us Down, The
>School, and The Empty Child has noted:
>[Hold on, Dear Reader: Note what Kevin claims this piece is
saying -- he's
>saying that the schools were not intended to spread literacy and
Distortion. Deception. I said the schools weren't designed to replace
widespread illiteracy with literacy. They were designed to perpetuate already-existing
literacy or to protect against alleged threats to literacy.
>Notice that Mr. Gatto says nothing
of the sort in this excerpt; this is
>typical, Kevin cannot find historical sources to support his
argument, so he
>pulls a bait and switch.]
>>> [I]n 1818, 34
years before the first compulsory [state] school
> laws, Noah Webster estimated that over five million
> his Spelling Book had been sold in a country of under
> million population.<<
>Okay, I noted that 1834 date -- well more than 100 years after the
>Kevin had claimed started compulsory education. Sometimes ya
gotta wonder if
>Kevin bothers to read these lengthy quotes he's trying to
Compulsory education does not mean compulsory schooling.
Compulsory schooling does not mean compulsory state schooling.
>1818? Webster had been
selling his secularized (from previous versions)
>speller for at least 30 years by then. So he's talking about
sales over two
>generations. It's good, yeah, but does it indicate that these
>used? No. Does it indicate the spellers worked well?
People in those days did not shell out money for books they didn't
intend to use.
No books sold millions of copies unless they were used -- again
>Most importantly, does it deny in
any way, shape or form that schools were
>intended to spread literacy? No.
There is no evidence that rates of literacy were lower than they are
today. They were higher. Schools were not designed to address a crisis
that existed in the 1800's. There was no great "illiteracy"
crisis back then.
>Does it measure literacy? No.
You gotta wonder about Webster "estimating"
>how many books he had printed and sold. When the guy with the
>doesn't know what the figures are, they are more highly suspect.
Webster's books were printed by many different publishers.
when you consider that every purchase
> decision had to be made freely by an individual or a
> that there were no federal, state or city tabs on which
to run bulk
> purchases, it would seem to suggest that most people
> to be tricked or compelled to learn; most people in a
> setting will do it on their own because they want to.
> Book purchase decision was made privately. In each case
> someone forked over some cash to buy a book. According
> American Library Association, only one adult American
in every 11
> does that any more; so you can see we must have been
> literate by modern standards in those by-gone days.<<
>This is utter bilge. Gatto suggests that people bought the
books NOT for
If you distinguish private tutors from public schools, then yes, they
weren't always bought for public schools.
>He suggests that, because large
state bureaucracies did not then
>exist, schools had no standards for books. Because there were
>boards, schools were complete chaos when it came time to suggest
>Kevin, did you ever attend college? You know, of course, that
>many colleges pick their own texts -- and then the students buy
>must know this, too. Which means he's being dishonest here in
>that people were buying school books just for the heck of it.
I think Ed's being dishonest for describing Gatto as saying people
just bought books for "the heck of it." Whoever said that?
>You argue on the one hand that
schools were compulsory in that era, though
>your informants say otherwise, and then you argue, incredibly, that
>went to school with just any book they wanted to use?
the mid-1800's, America relied on the competition between
private for-profit and non-profit schools. In small
communities, "district schools" were established. A
district school was funded through a combination of tuition
and local taxes, enabling some students who could not afford
the tuition to attend. Larger communities relied on private,
independent institutions to educate their young people. Some
charged tuition. Others, relying on the philanthropy of
wealthy benefactors, charged no fee. Private school
competition remained the norm until the mid-1880's when the
idea of government run schools took hold. Government schools
did not arise because the private, independent institutions
were not serving the needs of the public. On the contrary,
literacy rates in America [were high]. Rather, they surfaced
due to exaggerated promises of what government-run schools
could accomplish and a desire for uniformity in education to
counter the influence of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and
other non-Protestant nations. Government school advocates
looked to the regimented, homogenous schools systems of
countries like Prussia for organizational models.
Between 1813 and 1823, Walter Scott sold
> copies of his novels in the U.S., equal to about 60
million books today;
> James Fenimore Cooper's books (think of Last of the
> also sold in the millions. Pick up a Cooper or a Scott
at your local
> library, and you will discover both authors write
> allusive prose, not easy reading even by a college
>They wrote obtuse, thick stuff that discouraged as many readers, or
>more readers, than they encouraged.
Prove it. Considering the great numbers who bought the
books, adding to that the number of people who could read with your
discriminating literary taste and decided not to buy the books
makes early America vastly more literate than today.
>They couldn't pass a freshman
You must be joking. Today's freshman writing classes are designed for
borderline illiterate products of government high schools.
>Modern writers who write clearly
and concisely sell a lot more.
Not as a function of percentage. A greater percentage of people were
buying better books than are being bought today.
>Clear communication requires more
effort, and often more knowledge. To argue
>that James Fenimore Cooper's books make a statement that Americans
>better able to read is to ignore that probably only half the people
>bought the book COULD read it, and fewer than a quarter of the
>buying his books.
Where on earth do you have evidence for the claim that 50% of
Cooper's books were bought by people who could not read them??? What a
bizarre claim! So 24% of the American people (one in four) were buying
books that today are bought (and understood) by fewer than 1 in 11.
Sounds like a decline in reading to me.
>Have you never read Mark Twain's
critique of Cooper? I'm sure your local
>library has a copy of Twain's essay, "The Literary Offenses of
>Cooper." It was required reading in journalism school.
And today's victims of government schooling could probably not
understand it or comment on it in any intelligent manner.
>Clear writing is more difficult
than obtuse writing. That Cooper and Scott
>are dense is no tribute to their readers.
Actually (assuming you're
right about their being "dense") it is
a tribute to the readers of that day. That Cooper and Scott could not be
understood, difficult as they admittedly are, by today's students, is
certainly no tribute to the superiority of government schooling over
In 1812 Pierre DuPont de Nemours published Education in
> the United States, a book in which he expressed his
> at the phenomenal literacy he saw. Forty years before
> our first compulsory [state] school laws, DuPont said
> than four out of every thousand people in the new
nation could not
> read and do numbers well. Looking around himself and
> America with the Continental traditions he had left
behind, he saw
> a world in which nearly every child was skilled in
> (the old-fashioned term for "critical
thinking") because of the
> widespread habit of involving young children in
disputes about the
> meaning of ambiguous Bible passages, or so that seemed
> explanation to Mr. DuPont. [Gatto is not a Christian].<<
>The du Pont family was rich even then. That literacy was high
>silk-stockinged class of Philadelphia and nearby areas is probably
But not at all what DuPont was saying.
>This unscientific survey cannot be
extended to the frontier towns of even
>western New York.
That's the crowd the "Federalist Papers" targeted.
>The simple fact is that schooling
was perceived to be a good thing to have by
>Americans. Our ancestors here built schools because they saw
>one key to prevention of tyranny. They were right.
Those who substituted government school regimentation for private
education were wrong, whatever their ostensible justification.
Adams discovered in 1765 that a "native of America, especially of
>England, who cannot read and write is as rare a Phenomenon as a
>Give us the context. As I recall, Adams was extolling the
virtues of America
>over those of Europe. It's a bit hyperbolic. For New
England, even, it is
>hyperbolic. But New England would have the highest educational
>America at the time -- when 40% of all Americans in many states were
>by law from knowing how to read.
Quote the law. There is no such law. And in 1830, when state schools
began to multiply, any such disenfranchised were still not included.
>To claim, then, that fewer than 4
in 1000 did NOT know how to read is to
>ignore the plain facts that the laws prevented teaching reading to
>criminals, and often to children in poverty.
Private missionary agencies dedicated to teaching criminals and the
poor to read abounded. I have posted documentation, especially from
Webster said that "a youth of fifteen, of either sex, who cannot
>and write, is very seldom to be found."<<
>Daniel Webster was a cockeyed optimist. Good for him. We
now know better.
Not until you cite some evidence. You refuse to believe the evidence
I cite, but cite nothing to the contrary.
>Again I wonder about any such
statistics from a fellow who doesn't know how
>many books he has sold of his own publishing house.
As I said, after the copyright expired, many publishers circulated
the Webster spellers.
more important to a good Republic, as the Founders all agreed, these
>had good manners and law-abiding character.<<
>Hyperbole again. Massachusetts still had that Bible-inspired
law on the
>books that allowed any father to have any child under 16 put to
>questions asked. Clearly the legislators did not believe this
>Why should we believe it now?
What a liar Ed. "any child" ? "no questions
asked" ?? Bull.
Here are the laws
of Massachusetts. Find the law. Quote it for us.
And the same forces of public morality which put these laws on the books
pushed the rates of violation down toward zero.
don't see this today. Maybe I'm laboring under the lies of the Reagan
Education Report which opened by stating that if a foreign
>power had imposed our present education system and results on us,
>we would view it as an act of war. <<
>That's right. If we imposed a system that taught creationism,
>Excellence in Education Commission discovered, we would indeed call
it an act
>of war. You ought to know what it is you write about before
you write it.
>You're talking about my old agency, Kevin, the people I worked with
>supported. Yes, we had a good system cooking after Sputnik in
the late '50s
>and the 1960s. Hammering at the foundations of public
education, much as
>Kevin is doing here, hamstrung education in the 1980s.
The foundations of public education -- statism, regimentation,
racism, secularism -- have been disastrous. We need to return to private
>The drive to deprive schools of
money is an attempt to undo the good work
>done after the Gardner commission report.
The evidence and authorities condemning illiteracy and immorality in
public schools are legion. Where is the evidence of this "good
Here's a link for school choice:
Give us a link which will persuade us to retain the present failing
I understand that nearly HALF of ALL
>highschool graduates leave school functionally illiterate.
>That's the problem: What you understand is incorrect.
Half of all
>highschool students today have difficulty doing some of the higher
>required in normal jobs today. Too many are
>meaning they can't do all the paper required to get a job.
>But all kidding aside, literacy is considerably greater now than it
>any time between 1750 and 1850.
Still no evidence for Ed's claim.
"We must do more to help all our children read. Forty
percent -- 40 percent -- of our 8-year-olds cannot read on
their own. That's why we have just launched the America
Reads initiative, to build a citizen army of 1 million
volunteer tutors to make sure every child can read
independently by the end of the third grade. We will use
thousands of AmeriCorps volunteers to mobilize this citizen
army. We want at least 100,000 college students to help. And
tonight, I'm pleased that 60 college presidents have
answered my call, pledging that thousands of their
work-study students will serve for one year as reading
tutors. This is also a challenge to every teacher and every
principal. You must use these tutors to help your students
read. And it is especially a challenge to our parents. You
must read with your children every night."
State of the Union Address
February 4, 1997
Volunteer tutors. What we had 200 years ago is what Clinton says will
bail out the current failing bureaucratic monopoly.
Founding Fathers were right, as DeTocqueville noted:
>"Religion is the road to knowledge." Take out religion and
>schools and you also take out knowledge.<<
>If deTocqueville said that, he was wrong. The founders didn't
>either -- de Tocqueville was not a "founding father."
evidence from Ed.
De Tocqueville was right, and the evidence I have repeatedly posted has
been unmatched by evidence to the contrary.
>Such confusion of the facts, such
mish-mashing of the history, makes me
>suspect all the conclusions drawn from it.
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares
and sit under their Vine & Fig Tree.