Nothing in this world seems as important as education. In a world where not everyone is willing to learn, it is imperative that we have some sort of educational system in place so we may be able to teach our young ones the basics in all courses and walks of life. Michigan was no exception from trying to give children an education. However, as with many early educational formats, early Michigan had a much different way of teaching than we do today.
A few things surprised me when I first began my investigation into early Michigan Education. The first and foremost thing that shocked me, was the fact that most teachers seemed to be nomadic in nature. This is a result of most of them teaching far away from their home and this would make it impossible for them to travel back and forth. They would often stay in the homes of their students while they were away. The teachers also worked in all seasons, from the freezing winter to the steaming summer, sometimes making travel arrangements even more difficult due to the icy roads, however, school would usually always be in session, they certainly did not have school closings as we know them today.
From what I could gather the teachers made a decent amount of money for their troubles. With the addition of also receiving free room and board, the teachers also made between 2 and 5 dollars a week, which estimates to about 55-133 dollars a week as of 2016. Another thing that surprises me is the fact that the teachers, so it seems, were primarily women. With the sexist views of the time, it shocks me to know that women were encouraged to teach rather than men. This is not to say that this idea wasn’t lacking in any sexism, teaching was a job done inside and men were expected to work outdoors.
Nearly everyone is aware of the one-room schoolhouses of the past, and Michigan was full of them. These rooms were often full of students and to say that they were cramped may be an understatement. According to the textbook Michigan Voices some classrooms may have had 89+ students. Imagine the process the teacher had to go through to keep those kids quiet!
Although Michigan’s education system seems faulty or at least arduous for the teachers, it was seen at the time as a model for education around the country. In the 1835 Michigan Constitution, an entire article is dedicated to education, including appointing a superintendent of public instruction, whose duty was purely to support and maintain schooling in the state. The founding fathers obviously had seen the importance of education in Michigan and in the world as a whole. They knew that education is not only the key to prosperity and happiness for the people, but also the key for a prosperous and happy state.
“$5 in 1860 → 2016 | Inflation Calculator.” FinanceRef Inflation Calculator, Alioth Finance, 4 Feb. 2018, http://www.in2013dollars.com/1860-dollars-in-2016?amount=5.
Grimm, Joe. Michigan Voices: Our State’s History in the Words of the People Who Lived It. Detroit Free Press, 1987.