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The Founding of Education
in America

Of note is the fact that 106 of the first 108 schools in America were founded on the Christian faith.
 


Early Public School Laws

In England, and much of Europe, prior to the colonization of America, there were individuals such as Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and others, who believed that the Biblical illiteracy of the general population had permitted many civil abuses to occur. The common citizens were not allowed to read the Scriptures, and therefore could not compare the acts of their government to the teachings of the Bible. The knowledge of rights and wrongs was limited to what the civil government told them. This was how many terrible acts, such as the Inquisition and the Crusades, were perpetrated under the banner of "Christianity".

American settlers wanted to prevent these types of governmental abuses of power from happening in America, and believed this could be accomplished by eliminating Biblical illiteracy. Then American citizens could read the teachings of the Bible, and compare the acts of their government to those teachings. Therefore, one of the earliest laws providing for public education in America was passed in Massachusetts in 1642, and in Connecticut in 1647. This public school law explained why students needed to be educated, and how to accomplish it:

"It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former time... it is therefore ordered... after the Lord hath increased [the town] to the number of fifty householders, [they] shall then forthwith appoint one within their town, to teach all such children as shall resort to him, to write and read.... And it is further ordered, that when any town shall increase to the number of one hundred families or householders, they shall set up a grammar school... to instruct youths, so far as they may be fitted for the university."

It was not at all uncommon for early colonies to pass literacy and education laws that were based on the public's need to know the Scriptures. For example, a 1690 Connecticut law stated:

"This [legislature] observing that... there are many persons unable to read the English tongue and thereby incapable to read the holy Word of God or the good laws of this colony... it is ordered that all parents and masters shall cause their respective children and servants, as they are capable, to be taught to read distinctly the English tongue."

George Washington himself described America's educational philosophy when Chiefs from the Delaware Indian tribe brought him some of their Indian children to be trained in American Schools. Washington commended them for their decision, and told them:

"You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of live, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people that you are. Congress will do every thing they can to assist you in this wise intention."

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Harvard College

The mottos of Harvard were:

For Christ and the Church.
For the Glory of Christ.

The founders of Harvard believed that:

"All knowledge without Christ was vain".

In 1636,the rules of Harvard included:

"Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of Him. Every one shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein."

In 1790, the requirements for Harvard stated:

"All persons of what degree forever residing at the College, and all undergraduates... shall constantly and seasonably attend the worship of God in the chapel, morning and evening.... All the scholars shall, at sunset in the evening preceding the Lord’s Day, lay aside all their diversions and... it is enjoined upon every scholar carefully to apply himself to the duties of religion on said day."

Ten of the twelve presidents of Harvard, prior to the Revolutionary War, were ministers, and over fifty percent of the seventeenth-century Harvard graduates later became ministers.

Among the many founding fathers who graduated from Harvard were John Adams, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Elbridge Gerry, John Pickering, William Williams, Rufus King, William Hooper, William Ellery and Robert Treat Paine -- all of whom where signers of the Declaration of Independence.

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The College of William and Mary

In 1692, the Rev. James Blair helped found the College of William and Mary so that, as the Charter and Statutes of the College of William and Mary in Virginia stated:

"[T]he youth may be piously enacted in good letters and manners and that the Christian faith may be propagated... to the glory of Almighty God."

By 1792, the requirements further stated:

"The students shall attend prayers in chapel at the time appointed and there demean themselves with a decorum which the sacred duty of public worship requires."

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Princeton University

Princeton University’s official motto was:

Under God’s Power She Flourishes.

The first president of Princeton University, the Rev. Jonathan Dickinson, stated:

"Cursed be all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ."

The requirements of Princeton University, during President John Witherspoon's tenure, 1768-1776, included:

"Every student shall attend worship in the college hall morning and evening at the hours appointed and shall behave with gravity and reverence during the whole service. Every student shall attend public worship on the Sabbath.... Besides the public exercises of religious worship on the Sabbath, there shall be assigned to each class certain exercises for their religious instruction suited to the age and standing of the pupils... and no student belonging to any class shall neglect them."

Princeton University, under President John Witherspoon, 1768-1794, graduated 478 students who directly contributed to the shaping of America. Among those graduates were:

James Madison, who served eight years as Secretary of State and eight years as President of the U.S.
Aaron Burr, Jr., who was a U.S. Vice-President
3 U.S. Supreme Court justices
10 Cabinet members
13 state governors
21 U.S. Senators
39 U.S. Congressmen
114 ministers

Nine of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention were graduates of Princeton:

Gunning Bedford Jr., Del.
David Brearley, N.J.
William Richardson Davie N.C.
Jonathan Dayton, N.J.
William Churchill Houston, N.J.
James Madison, Va.
Alexander Martin, N.C.
Luther Martin, Md.
William Paterson, N.J.

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Yale

Yale was founded in 1699 by ten ministers whose goal was:

"[T]o plant, and under Divine blessing, to propagate in this wilderness the blessed reformed Protestant religion."

Requirements at Yale college included:

"[T]he Scriptures... morning and evening [are] to be read by the students at the times of prayer in the school... studiously endeavoring in the education of said students to promote the power and purity of religion."

"All the scholars are required to live a religious and blameless life according to the rules of God's Word, diligently reading the holy Scriptures, that fountain of Divine light and truth, and constantly attending all the duties of religion.... All the scholars are obliged to attend Divine worship in the College Chapel on the Lord's Day and on Days of Fasting and Thanksgiving appointed by public authority."

Among the many founding fathers who graduated from Yale were these Declaration of Independence signers: Oliver Wolcott, William Livingston, Lyman Hall, Lewis Morris, Jared Ingersoll, Philip Livingston and William Samuel Johnson.

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Dartmouth College

Dartmouth was founded in 1754 by the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, and the school's charter very specifically spelled out its purpose:

"Whereas... the Reverand Eleazar Wheelock... educated a number of the children of the Indian natives with a view to their carrying the Gospel in their own language and spreading the knowledge of the great Redeemer among their savage tribes. And... the design became reputable among the Indians insomuch that a larger number desired the education of their children in said school.... [T]herefore Dartmouth-College [is established] for the education and instruction of youths... in reading, writing and all parts of learning which shall appear necessary and expedient for civilizing and Christianizing the children."

The college became quite famous in 1819 when alumnus Daniel Webster defended this charter before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Columbia College

Originally named "King's College" in 1754, following the American Revolution its name was changed to Columbia College. The admission requirements stated:

"No candidate shall be admitted into the College... unless he shall be able to render into English... the Gospels from the Greek.... It is also expected that all students attend public worship on Sunday."

At the age of fourteen, John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, passed Columbia's admission requirements, including translating from Greek the first ten chapters of the Gospel of John.

In 1787, Constitution signer William Samuel Johnson was appointed Columbia's first president. His commencement speech to the graduates emphasizes the importance placed on religion in public education:

"You this day gentlemen,... have... received a public education, the purpose whereof hath been to qualify you the better to serve your Creator and your country.... Your first great duties, you are sensible, are those you owe to Heaven, to your Creator and Redeemer. Let these be ever present to your minds and exemplified in your lives and conduct. Imprint deep upon your minds the principles of piety towards God and a reverence and fear of His holy name. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.... Remember, too, that you are the redeemed of the Lord, that you are bought with a price, even the inestimable price of the precious blood of the Son of God.... Love, fear, and serve Him as your Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Acquaint yourselves with Him in His Word and holy ordinances. Make Him your friend and protector and your felicity is secured both here and hereafter."

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Brown University

Brown University was founded in Providence, Rhode Island, under the name Rhode Island College. The seventh oldest college in America, it was renamed after the generous benefactors, Nicholas and Moses Brown. Successful manufacturers, they forged cannon in their furnaces and imported ammunition, greatly aiding the Revolutionary Army.

The Charter of Rhode Island College, 1763, stated:

"And that the number of the trustees shall, and may be thirty-six; of which twenty-two shall forever be elected of the denomination called Baptists, or Antipedobaptists; five shall forever be elected of the denomination called Friends, or Quakers; four shall forever be elected of the denomination called Congregationalists; and five shall forever be elected of the denomination called Episcopalians."

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Rutgers University

Rutgers University was founded in New Jersey as "Queen’s College" by the efforts of the Dutch minister, Rev. Theodore Jacobus Frelinghuysen (1692-1747). Initially a Pietist minister in Germany, he was schooled in Holland, and later emigrated to New Jersey.

In 1825, Queen’s College was changed to Rutgers University, in honor of Henry Rutgers. He had served as a captain in the 1st Regiment of the New York Militia, was a member of the New York Assembly, and gave land for the 2nd Free School for the city’s poor. Henry Rutgers was the president of the board of the Dutch Reformed Church, and gave the land for the Rutgers Street Presbyterian Church.

In 1776, inspired by the motto of the University of Utrecht, Netherlands, which was "Son of Righteousness, Shine upon Us", Rutgers University chose for its official motto:
"Son of Righteousness, Shine upon the West Also."

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