Compulsory education requires by law that all children receive some form of schooling. Compulsory education is largely seen as being a universal good for the child, as well as the society in which he or she lives. Less often, it is considered to be a means by which the state can exercise control and influence over its citizens. This entry looks at the history of this practice, relevant court rulings, and critiques.

Historical Background

The first compulsory education law was passed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1642. The law removed control of education from the clergy and placed it under the direction of citizens or “selectmen” of the colony.

It required parents and craftsmen or masters to make sure that their children were able to read. ...

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