On this day in 1870, the British government announced its plan to make education compulsory. The Elementary Education Act of 1870 required that education be provided to children up to age 10. The act was also commonly known as the Forster’s Education Act, named for William Edward Forster, a member of the House of Commons who crusaded for universal education and who drew up the act.
One nation that adopted compulsory education before Britain was Prussia. A decree by Frederick the Great in 1763 provided an education for all girls and boys until age 13. Under this plan teachers were paid by the citizens of the municipalities in which they taught; however, the teachers – many of whom were former soldiers — were asked to supplement their income by cultivating silkworms.
In the United States, Mississippi became that last state to pass a compulsory education law in 1918.
In 2012, best-selling young adult fiction author John Green published a YouTube post on compulsory education entitled “An Open Letter to Students Returning to School.” In his letter Green challenged students to not take their education for granted and to see “compulsory” schooling as an opportunity to contribute something to society:
School doesn’t exist for your benefit or for the benefit of your parents. Schools exist for the benefit of me. The reason I pay taxes for schools even though I don’t have a kid in school is that I am better off in a well-educated world. Public education isn’t a charity project; I pay for your schools because I want you to grow up and make my life better. I want you to make me beautiful books that will bring me pleasure and consolation. I want you to make me cooler cars for me to drive, and drugs so that I can live a longer, healthier life. I’m paying for your education in the hopes that you will invent a microwave pizza with actually crispy crust and that you’ll spread the availability of the internet so I can get more YouTube views in Zambia.
Your education isn’t just about you, your nation is making an investment in you because they believe that you are worth it. So the next that you’re like half asleep fantasizing about being a kid chosen for a special mission or wizard school, or whatever, please remember something: you are special, and you’ve chosen for a special mission that was denied to 99.9% of all humans ever. We need you, we believe in you, and we’re counting on you.
Today’s Challenge: A Compulsion for Education
If you were the Secretary of Education, what class would you make mandatory for all students? Why? Imagine that you have been appointed to design a specific class that will be required by all students before they graduate high school. What would you call your class, and what would be the make-up of the class’s curriculum? In addition to describing the class, provide a rationale for why the content of the class is essential for students. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
Quotation of the Day: But yes, your teachers may be stupid. So are you, so am I, so is everyone, except for Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The whole pleasure in being a human is in being stupid but learning to be less stupid together. -John Green
1-Elementary Education Act of 1870.