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Education in the New American Republic

In hindsight, education during the American nation's first fifty years looks like a hodgepodge. Although several of the nation's founders urged broad access to schooling, the Constitution was silent on education. Thomas Jefferson imagined an ambitious, multilevel schooling scheme, and the Land Ordinance of 1785 dedicated one section to schools in each future township. Some states had school funds, but no state boasted a real school system. The founders' dreams evaporated as most Americans resisted school taxes. Better-off parents preferred private education; existing options plus apprenticeship met others' expectations. Yet over the next fifty years or so, the attitude toward the importance of education changed, as this entry shows, and by the 1830s, the nation was primed to offer public education for all.

In early ...

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