The education system in the USA has come a long way from informal students learning to the formal and sophisticated public school system. The United States spends a lot more money on funding per student than the OECD average the rest of the world tries to follow. However, it doesn’t mean the educational system works best. There’s vast room for major improvement, but let’s go to the past and see what quality of learning American people used to have from the very beginning.
Education in US (colonial times)
There was hardly any good formal education (schooling in special institutions with principals and teachers) in the colonial years. In the area that’s now the state of Massachusetts, the Puritans encouraged informal learning (at home, with a parent or a custodian as a teacher). They required children to be able to read, at least.
The larger the town, the more requirements there were. Some had elementary schools with three main subjects: reading, writing, religion.
Generally, though, there was no countrywide learning requirement. The higher class was usually the educated one, although some of the poorer children could be apprentices. Only about 10% of the minor population had an opportunity to become students.
Education in the USA (the end of the 18-19th century)
After the Revolutionary War, the newborn nation and their language needed a standard. Textbooks came into use to teach people the correct pronunciation and spelling. Besides, the books were used to plant the seeds of patriotism and the “correct” beliefs. Still no colleges and universities, and still most of the students were from the high circles of the country.
In the second half of the 19th century, in the United States, there was an era when few instructors in academic institutions held advanced degrees, such as Master of Science, Master of Arts, or Doctor of Philosophy. This was quite simple because few academic institutions in America awarded advanced degrees. America’s academic institutions were in their infancy, with many of the early colleges being established by various religious denominations, for the primary purpose of training men for the ministry. Consequently, the great majority of instructors at these early academic institutions were men, and predominantly clergymen. During this time, other than the ministry, the two most commonly chosen professions requiring any type of an academic education were medicine and law.
Besides, the government wanted immigrants to believe in “true American values”. This is the troubling thing. Professional writers from this service have written hundreds of essays discussing the initial purpose of inclusive compulsory education. The population of the States in those years was quite international. And it wasn’t desirable that the traditions and beliefs of the immigrants outshine those manifested in academic programs.
WWII and the middle of the 20th century
In the 20th century, the main rules and principles for education were set completely. In fact, the concept of compulsory, free, and universal education had deep roots. The United States was able to ask people to provide their children with education but they couldn’t force people to send their kids to any public school. In those times, people had the option to select a school for their children: they could choose between religious, private, or a public school. Needless to say, the main principles for US public education were formed to make an educational revolution. Besides, private schools continued to open. As we know from reliable historical sources, private schools were receiving financial support under the Establishment Clause.
Compulsory education was still on the elementary and secondary levels. Until the middle of the 20th century, only wealthy people could afford to go to high schools or colleges. The quality of learning was improving, but the values and purpose were still the same.
The number of enrollments increased dramatically after the end of World War II. The environment of the study was still determined by class, but a lot more people got the opportunity to learn. In the 20th century, the school system was reformed to the foundation we know nowadays.
If we analyze an early education for kids, it also has experienced some massive changes. The number of teachers, daycare workers, and nannies for kids 5 years old and younger was increased, and provisions were made for preschools. These changes were accepted in the private sphere only but that was the beginning of the kindergarten education system we know nowadays.
Today, more students are able to attend college than ever before, although there are still those who can’t afford it. Education is provided in public, private, and at-home schools and can fit almost every student’s needs. There are national colleges and universities, as well as possibilities of international program enrollment.
The “21st-century skills” program helps adjust and prepare the modern society to the new jobs emerging due to the rapid changes and developments of the modern time. The list doesn’t only imply what careers are relevant nowadays but also includes analysis, teamwork skills, as well as issues solving. Experiential learning has also become an important part of development.
The development of technology opens a huge new platform for progress tracking. Periodic report cards are changed for digital databases. Classes become more interactive and technology-based. We’re looking forward to VR to take a permanent place in schools and learning in general.
To sum up
As we can see, until very recent times, the privilege of studying, as well as literally anything else, was granted only to white wealthy males. Girls’ study was supposed to be informal and occur at home. Consequently, there was no chance for them or the people of color to get professional skills and a great career.
Our world experiences new societal and technological changes constantly. It means that social-emotional intelligence and leadership skills are the most needed skills in the workplace. The modern world doesn’t require a factory mindset but it needs people who can adapt to new changes fast and overcome challenges easily. Nowadays, educators have to overcome the challenge of adapting their methods to the world’s needs.
The current situation in the US is improving, but there’s still a long way to go to the equality of race, gender, class, religion, etc.