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 the 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 (2).
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)
1-Elementary Education Act of 1870. https://archive.org/details/elementaryeducat00greauoft.
2-Green, John. An Open Letter to Students Returning to School. YouTube 7 Aug. 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x78PnPd-V-A.