Michigan is known to be a leader in educational development. Many other states looked up to Michigan and their “forward thinking in education.” With many new Puritan settlers coming to Michigan they influenced Michigan’s thoughts on education. According to Michigan; A History of the Great Lakes State Puritans believed that “education is godly, ignorance the tool of the devil, and a moral society could only result from an educated citizenry.” (Rubenstein and Zewacz, 157) I believe the Puritan’s belief on education really set the tone for Michigan’s strong initiative on public schooling.
I was very surprised at Michigan’s early education structure. Little Red Schoolhouses were few and far between. Only towns of 50 or more residents were required to hire a teacher to offer instruction in writing, reading, arithmetic, English, French and behavior over 6 months. This was put in place after adopting a primary school law from Massachusetts. Only towns of 200 or more were required to have “higher schools” that taught more subjects at an advanced level. These school houses were only for families that could afford the tax of $2 to $4 per child. Although, it was important at the time that the schools received the money from these taxes, it was extremely unfair to the families who had a lot of children and not enough money to send their children to school.
It surprised me that in the early years, Michigan’s teachers did not have much training. “Teachers were often ill-trained persons who viewed their occupation as a temporary means of earning a living until something better presented itself.” (Rubenstein and Ziewacz, 163) Although districts chose their requirements for their teachers, many only needed the ability to read, write and to do arithmetic. Without having proper training on how to structure a class, many teachers acted out with corporal punishment. For example in Clare, Michigan a teacher was fired in 1878 for beating a student’s head badly. Quickly after being fired, the teacher was hired by a nearby town because they admired his “physical approach” to learning. It was not until 1925 that the state legislature required teachers to gain one year of training before teaching.
I believe that the forefathers felt that education was so necessary that they wrote it in the 1835 Constitution because they valued educated citizens that could benefit our state. The Constitution of 1835 outlined school guild lines that included a superintendent, libraries, 3 month school years, proper financing, promotion of literature, arts and sciences and the support of higher education. I believe our forefathers saw the benefit of having a literate community. It allowed citizens to more opportunities at jobs that would lead to better lives.
Sources: Grimm, Joe. Michigan Voices: Our State’s History in the Words of the People Who Lived It. Detroit, MI: Detroit Free, 1987. Print.
Rubenstein, Bruce A., and Lawrence E. Ziewacz. Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State. N.p.: Wiley, 2014. Print.