The American Public School System

Decent Essays

In the 17th century, the American public school system was founded and built upon early US colonists’ religious principle and ideologies, which were all a branch or sect of Christianity. The first tax-supported public school in the country in Dedham, Massachusetts was run by Reverend Ralph Wheelock who was a puritan priest. Schools in other parts of the English colonies were run by Jesuits, Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, and the like. When new territory was claimed from the Native Americans, it was declared that the Native Americans were to be taught Christian ideology, and although enslaved and prevented from attending school, many African Americans were encouraged, or even coerced to adopt the Christian faith as well. At the beginning of every school day, mandatory prayers were recited from the Bible—like the Lord’s Prayer—and it was not until 1962 and 1963 that this was officially changed. This all began in 1955 when the New York Board of Regents approved an inclusive prayer to be used in the public school system. The prayer was “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependency on Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.” Engel v. Vitale made it unlawful for the public recitation of the Regents’ Prayer in public schools.
In the year following, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Abington School District v. Schempp that the corporate reading of the Bible and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer was unlawful in public schools.

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