Michigan’s Education


Michigan was considered a leader in educational development and has been advancing since its beginning. “During British rule, public schools were established for children of soldiers and families living at, or near, military outposts, while private schools were opened for the offspring of officers and wealthy merchants,” (Rubenstein and Ziewacz). The Puritan belief helped to shape Michigan’s education system, because it saw education as godly and ignorance as the tool of the devil. Although it was rarely collected, in the beginning, the state was taxing the parents of the children attending public school $2-$4 per child. After discovering that this was not the best way to receive money for the schools, the state took most of the necessary money from the sale of land and put it toward the schools, but still needed help from the parents to cover the costs. John Pierce began the first superintendent with the dream of making completely government funded schooling for poorer families so their children could receive an education also.

It did surprise me that Michigan had so many one room schools, and that they kept that structure until the late 1920s. That was even after the introduction of specialized subject texts in the 1870s, when they thought it would be important to form union districts to provide a high quality education. Along with that, the schools had extremely low standards for teachers, most of them only needing the ability to, “read, write, do arithmetic, and be able to defeat the strongest boy,” (Rubenstein and Ziewacz). The teachers having the upper hand on the students often mistreated them as well, taking punishments too far and scaring the child with different physical injuries.

The forefathers felt that education was so necessary that they wrote it into the Constitution, because they wanted to safeguard it from the possibility of changes in simple laws. They wanted to provide a solid ground for the education of the Michigan children, so it would always be there for them although there would be small changes along the way. Most of those changes were hopefully for the better, because it was one of the most important things that they had in that point in time. Education would be one of the few things that those individuals would be able to learn and keep to better their lives.

Works sited:

Rubenstein, Bruce A., and Lawrence E. Ziewacz. Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State, 5th Edition. John Wiley & Sons, 2014.

6 thoughts on “Michigan’s Education

  1. I find it interesting how much one room school houses changed over the time they existed. My grandmother tells me often of here days in country school, and they seem much different from what the textbook tells of the first country schools here in Michigan. She tells of the good foundation on education she received there, and how she learned from more than just the planned lessons of her teacher but also the simply life lessons such as respecting elders, honoring your family name, and being kind. Her teachers where all kind people who treated the children well, they weren’t only teachers but friends and often knew if something was wrong with a child.

    1. I would have never imagined that the teachers treated the students so well since the book stated how many of the boys would be punished to extremes. I am also surprised that she received a good foundation of education, since it would be easy for the teachers to focus on one age group of children and end up not teaching much if anything to the other age groups.

      1. From the stories my grandmother tell me it almost makes me feel that back in the day they got a better education than I did when I was in school. The teachers were a lot more strict and actually cared about their students and cared about what they learned. Even though school schedules were a lot more cary than they are now I almost feel that school systems were better than.

      2. I also found it interesting how the well the teachers treated their students. I don’t know why I had this idea in my head about how badly students were treated in the past. I guess it was just a stereotype that I had believed all this time.

  2. If I’m understanding this correctly (Rubenstein, page 158), section 16 of every township in the Northwest Territory was sold to the public so the schools would have operating money. Approximately one million acres was sold in the process. Wow! that is a lot of land! But the monies from the land sales didn’t last long, and taxes were introduced. As much as I hate paying taxes of any kind, this is a good thing.

  3. I wonder how school was handled only having one classroom. Were students of all ages and grades in the same room? Or did different ages and grades meet at different times throughout the day? I would think it to be very difficult for one teacher to handle multiple aged kids and grades by themselves…was there more than one teacher in the classroom? Even though it was the beginning stages for education in Michigan, it definitely seemed like a more complicated process as compared to school schedules now. Good job on your post.

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