Early New England Towns; a Comparative Study of Their Development

By Anne Bush MacLear | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VII
THE SCHOOLS

As was natural in a colony whose very existence depended upon teaching the coming generation the fundamental truths upon which the colony was founded, Massachusetts paid great attention to the education of the children. "After God had carried us safe to New England," said one old settler, "and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God's worship, and settled the civil government, one of the next things we longed for and looked after, was to advance learning, and to perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall be in the dust."1 This, like the religious system, was not a private but a public, a colonial and municipal, affair. The choice of a schoolmaster, the salary to be paid him, the location of the school house, and its need of repairs, the subjects to be taught, and the hours for the school sessions were all discussed and settled in town meeting. Parents were required by law to send their children to school, and those not complying were called before the selectmen to answer for "not learning their Children to read the English tongue,"2 while to enforce this order the selectmen made house-to-house visitations, to make trial whether children and servants be educated

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1
New England First Fruits, p. 12.
2
Watertown Town Records, p. 103.

-161-

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