Philadelphia sets up first “public” school

Dateline: 1684, the Quakers recognize how beneficial public education is. Or was it private education?

The Provincial Council, the highest governing body in Pennsylvania, and Governor William Penn, who was visiting and setting up his new province and city, on the 26th day of the 10th month, 1683 (January 26, 1683 [or 1684 by modern dating]), decided to educate children.

Modernized transcription begins:

The Governor and the Provincial Council, having taken into their serious consideration the great necessity there is of a school master [teacher] for the instruction and sober education of youth in the town of Philadelphia, sent for Enoch Flower, an inhabitant of the said town, who for twenty years past hath been exercised in that care and employment in England, to whom having communicated their minds, he embraced it upon these following terms: to learn to read English 4s [‘shillings] by the Quarter; to learn to read and write 6s by the Quarter, to learn to read, write and cast accounting 8s by the Quarter; for boarding a scholar [student], that is to say, diet, washing, lodging, and schooling, ten pounds for one whole year.

On the 17th of the 11th month, 1683 (Feb. 17, 1684), the Governor and Council proposed that “care be taken about the learning and instruction of youth, to wit: a School of Arts and Sciences.”

This is the first arrangement for Christian education in Philadelphia, according to the records. But it is not “public” in the modern sense of everyone paying taxes for kids to go to school, even if a single person has no kids.

Four shillings was affordable for the lower classes, but ten pounds for everything was expensive for back then. So a basic education should be considered “public,” but a well-rounded education should be considered “private.” Limited egalitarianism.

Minutes of the Provincial Council, vol. 1, 1683-1700, Jo. Severns and Co. 1852, p. 91, 93

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s