Article - History of Education:

Many popular dictionaries loosely define education as the act of being educated; the knowledge that results from being educated; or the field of study or work dealing with methods of teaching or learning. Those definitions may sum up the most basic meaning of education as a word, but they do not impart the far-reaching impact the reality of education has had on societies around the world.

Education, most often associated with school, is a vital component of life for children and even adults in every country. Presently, even the most undeveloped societies have rudimentary systems in place to teach children the basics of reading, math, culture, history and practical skills such as farming, sewing and cooking. These educational systems often include the classrooms with which Western cultures are familiar, but also include storytelling and inter-generational teaching that takes advantage of the skills and knowledge of elders and community leaders.

The more traditional Western-style (and in some cases Eastern-style) education employed by most developed nations tends to be highly structured, and usually takes place in a classroom setting. The learning and outcome expectations of modern day students are defined by government curricula, and cover a wide variety of topics; from the basics of reading, writing, and math, to the ever-expanding fields of business, science, and the arts. Students also have options to explore skills such as cooking, child-rearing, mechanics, hairstyling and more even before they move on to post-secondary studies. Computers have added incredible speed and versatility to modern education, allowing students and teachers increased communication and access to information anywhere in the world with the click of a mouse.

Like most other civil structures, education has evolved over the centuries to become the prized part of life that it is today. For example, in colonial America, the Puritans created the first formal school on what is now U.S ground: the Roxbury Latin School in 1635 (Harvard College was formed a few years later). The focus of education then was religious-based, with the Bible providing the foundation of what children were taught. Reading was important, with math and writing being less so. Books – a vital component of later education, were rare until late in the 16th Century and did not play much of a role in education until then.

While the Puritanical societies focused on scholarly pursuits, other areas of the country emphasized the importance of practical skills such as farming, and much education took place in the home. This was particularly true in the South, where government-influenced education was not widely accepted until much later.

After federation, education flourished in the United States, helped along by the appearance of public libraries and wider access to information. Previously, Latin schools had been the standard, but English schools were formed as a matter of practicality and to increase opportunities for education of the masses. Grammar and language were still important, but economics, science, arts, and social studies such as history, geography and politics were also popular. Unlike today, most women were excluded from these educational opportunities until the 1800s, when limited education was available to some women.

The late 1800s and early 1920s saw more and more immigrants of varied backgrounds entering the United States. Many immigrant children were sent to work to help provide for their families rather than to school to become part of the homogenous English-speaking society that was desirable during the period. This practice led to the creation of laws against child labor and mandatory school attendance and standards.

The history of education is a huge topic that cannot be summarized in a few paragraphs. Organizations such as the History of Education Society are dedicated to capturing and raising awareness of this important historical element.

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