When the Rev. John Cotton arrived in the colony of Massachusetts Bay in 1633, he brought with him the idea of the English type of free grammar school, the school he had attended as a child in Derby, England. The “free school” in England was a publicly supported institution open to all boys on the basis of academic merit. The English “grammar school” was a secondary institution offering a seven-year course of study devoted to the Greek and Latin classics and designed to prepare the pupil for admission to a university.

In 1635, two years after Cotton's arrival in the fledgling town of Boston, the town made provisions for the establishment and maintenance of a free grammar school on the English model. The school's first classes ...

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