THE PATRICIAN SOUTH AND THE COMMON SCHOOLS
William R. Taylor
Much of the writing on the history of education has tended to obscure the differences among regions in the United States. Usually it is assumed that the inequities that are conceded to exist are merely matters of degree. The history of publicly supported and controlled education, for example, has been pictured as a procession with the New England states, particularly Massachusetts, in the lead and the rest of the states following along behind. All move in the same direction toward a similar goal. This essay reminds us of the importance of regional differences and of the distortions in the processional concept.
Numerous documents on Southern education before the Civil War are reprinted in Edgar W. Knight, ed., A Documentary History of Education in the South Before 1860, 5 vols. ( Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1949- 1953). See also Clement Eaton, The Mind of the Old South ( Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964).
During the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s, the Southern states participated in a nationwide debate over the aims and instrumentalities of education. In the South, this debate began as a discussion of common schools, and these remained an important aspect of it and provided it with focus. It enlarged, however, to include all schools -- public and private; collegiate, secondary, and primary. It also embraced in its terms -- and sometimes in its specifics -- educational institutions for society at large: