Education is never value-free. School systems reflect the most deeply held commitments of those who control them. The friends of education and their progressive offspring argued for equal schooling for all, but the educational systems they produced institutionalized many inequalities. Their curricula reflected gender role differentiation and divergent expectations for working class and middle class children. African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American children received less or different schooling than did many males of Euro-American descent.
This chapter focuses on developments in the education of women, African, Native, and Hispanic Americans. Change was slow and often depended on economic and social status. Nevertheless, by the end of the nineteenth century, women and blacks had at least increased their access to education. True equality remained a distant goal for members of both groups, as it did for Hispanic and many Asian Americans.
Education for girls and women in the colonial and national periods was tailored to fit their traditional future roles as wives and mothers. Because learning the three Rs was important for household recordkeeping and the early education of offspring, petty, dame, and district schools were available to women--usually in summer when the boys were in the fields. Little thought was given to educating girls for other purposes.
Although both sexes generally received rudimentary education, learning letters and basic reading skills were all girls could generally expect. In