This Day in History: A New Chapter in American Education

Writing on the Board, North School, Portland. 1915

On this day in 1635, the Boston Latin School (Boston, MA) was founded. It was the first public school in the United States. Maine Memory Network historian, Candace Kanes, created an online exhibit that explores the history of public schooling in Maine. Here is text from that exhibit, along with some images. See the full exhibit here.

Back to School

Maine officially became part of Massachusetts in 1677 and therefore was subject to the laws of that colony, which had required since 1647 that public schools be established.

Despite the law, most youth did not have access to public schools.

By the mid to late eighteenth century, schools were more common in Maine. Some educated both boys and girls; some were limited to one sex or the other.

When Maine became a separate state in 1820, legislators soon passed a school code that required towns to raise money to educate people ages 4 to 21.

The state’s first enforced compulsory education law was passed in 1887 and since that time, fall has meant “back to school” for most young people in the state.

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