“An education was godly, ignorance the tool of the devil, and a moral society could only result from an educated citizenry” (Rubenstein 157). This quote was the bases of forming the importance of education in the wonderful state of Michigan. While many people came to Michigan from other states, education was always at the forefront of their mind for things they wanted to have. The Northwest Territory ordinance of 1787 even stated “Schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged” (Rubenstein 157).
Reverend John Pierce and General Isaac Crary formulated the public school system. They word hard and did a lot of research to make our education system the best it could be at the time. The first funding for the schools came from the state selling public land. They had about 1 million acres set aside for this purpose. Then taxes from railroad, telephone and telegraph companies along with the state and inheritance taxes were used toward paying for schools. Schools would receive money for each student they had attending the school and that adhered to the state requirements of attendance.
Families also had to help with the payment of their teachers and the upkeep of the schoolhouse. Many families would even put the teachers up, and the teachers would be transient by staying at several house who would rotate the responsibility. However, because families had to aid the teachers like this, pay their salaries, and help with the upkeep of the schoolhouse, so families did not always send their children to school. They found it to be to expansive, and if their child stayed home, they had less cost, and free labor by making their child work in their fields.
Materials at first were very thin. Children would bring a book from home, mostly their family Bible for a book to learn to read on, and they would practice their writing on trays of sand because there was no paper. It was not until later they got real materials to learn with that were unified across the state. “By the 1870’s, however, readers, spellers, arithmetic books and geography texts were furnished, and many rural school districts were consolidated to form “union districts” in order to furnish a higher quality education” (Rubinstein 163).
Many teachers were unqualified and abusive. Having a requirement of being able to “defeat the strongest boy in school in a fistfight” (Rubinstein 163) caused many male teachers who just wanted the small wage they were getting rather than caring for the children. It was not until 1925 that teachers were required to have at least one year of training. So until this point education was very meager. Before this time, in the early 1900 and late 1800 education was a luxury and children were often pulled out of school.
It is no surprise that universities were hard to come by before 1855. We had one university that was able to give out diplomas, but this changed when the Republicans took over in 1855. At this point, laws were changed, and we started to see more church supported colleges and universities that were also able to give out diplomas.
Today we look at how far we have come, and while we have made great strides, we still have a ways to go. Our education system is still failing our children today, and it is not the fault of the teachers. Now we need to look at other things, like the restrictions we have placed on the system itself. We are still striving to reach the society that is moral. We have laws, but we lack the knowledge of their importance, and how they effect us. It is important for us today to keep educating ourselves, and those around us. because “ignorance the tool of the devil” and will help us to fail as a person, state, and country.
Rubenstein, Bruce A., and Lawrence E. Ziewacz. Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State, 5th Edition. John Wiley & Sons, 2014.
Grimm, Joe. Michigan Voices: Our State’s History in the Words of the People Who Lived It. Detroit Free Press, 1987.