One thing I found very interesting about Michigan’s early educational structure was the role of the instructors. Prior to reading the text, I would have assumed that having talented, dedicated teachers and instructors from the start was the reason Michigan was considered a pioneer compared to other states in early 19th century education. Learning that was not the case was a surprise to me. Many of the earliest teachers possessed only basic academic skills and few viewed teaching as their passion or life’s work. It was actually the efforts of our forefathers which initially led the charge for a great educational system in Michigan, rather than the efforts of teachers. Having passionate educators is indisputably the most important piece in a sound educational system, and it was our forefathers’ wisdom and foresight which allowed for the implementation of passionate educators into Michigan’s culture.
Rather than viewing education as merely a perk to society, Michigan’s forefathers viewed it as an absolute necessity. This may seem like an obvious fact in the 21st century, but in the 1800’s not everyone viewed it as being so important. Rather than simply placing the fate of Michigan’s educational system into a public ordinance, our forefathers were smart enough to cement education into our state constitution. This was a brilliant idea that the drafters of most other state constitutions did not consider. Education is the means by which society advances in all aspects — technological, political, economical, and social. Both Michigan residents and the rest of the country are very fortunate that our forefathers recognized this.
The importance of learning to be literate and arithmetically sound in elementary school cannot be overstated, but it was the lawmakers of Michigan who took the idea of education to next level — specifically with the Kalamazoo School Case. This case challenged the importance of high school education as opposed to just elementary school, and was groundbreaking for Kalamazoo, Michigan, and eventually the entire country. This case presented the idea that acquiring an education past elementary school was not a civic duty, but simply an option. Once the Michigan Supreme Court got a hold of the case and said otherwise, the groundwork for a sound educational system in Michigan was laid, which caused a domino effect that positively impacted educational systems across America.
This topic spurred my interest in Michigan education and led me to see where we stand today compared to other states. According to an April 2017 article from USnews.com, which uses a system of awarding gold and silver medals based on statewide test scores and graduation rates, Michigan currently ranks 29th. Although this ranking isn’t phenomenal, no one can dismiss the important role Michigan played in developing U.S. education standards in a time when our country was being molded into what it is today.
Rubenstein, Bruce A., and Lawrence E. Ziewacz. Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State. N.p.: Wiley, 2014. Print.