Who Invented School: the Who, What & Why of Our Modern Education System
Have you ever stopped to consider: who invented school?
In many places around the world, school is something students take for granted. It’s a free, compulsory system that is available to everyone.
But how did we end up with the modern school systems used today? And why is school so important?
- The Inventor of School
- What’s the Point — Why Invent School?
- Why School is Important?
- 7 Fun & Quick School Facts
- School and Kids Today
The Inventor of School
Let’s begin by answering the big question: who invented school?
If you’re wondering who created school, you’ll find the answer a bit complex! Let’s start with history.
The History of School & Education
«Plato and Aristotle». Credit: images.squarespace-cdn.com
We need to look way back to 283 BC. At this time, libraries, like the one founded in Alexandria, Egypt, focused on improving literacy. The creation of libraries offered an essential educational tool for many schools.
Later, in ancient Greece, groups of people would meet with a tutor to learn. The Greeks named these first gatherings academies. The word’s origin is credited to a philosopher named Plato, who founded his school of philosophy in 387 BC.
During the Byzantine Empire in 425 AD, Emperor Theodosius II founded a more formalized school system. As a result, he created the University of Constantinople.
This school offered a more structured learning environment than the academies of ancient Greece. Students studied law, medicine, mathematics, philosophy, and more at this university.
Between 780 AD and 1260 AD, Islamic culture began focusing on education and more formal school systems, known as Islam’s ‘Golden Age.’ Political and cultural elites created schools called Madrasas to provide learning opportunities for everyone.
Father of the Modern School System
«Bust of Horace Mann». Credit: digitalcommonwealth.org
In many circles, Horace Mann is considered the inventor of school.
In general, he’s credited as the father (or creator) of the modern school system in the United States, even though many school systems existed at the time.
Born in 1796, Horace was a lifelong scholar. He became a lawyer and librarian at Brown University. Horace also tutored Latin and Greek. In 1827 he was elected to the Massachusetts legislature, where he became very involved in advancing education.
Horace believed several things about providing quality education to students:
- First: schools needed public funding.
- Second: schools should be free of religion (non-sectarian).
- Third: only hire well-trained, professional teachers.
By 1837, Horace was appointed Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education.
In this position, he helped develop the modern school system. He based this new curriculum on his core beliefs: that any student should receive an education, no matter their background or social class.
Standardized Education and Tests
One result of Horace’s work is that schools across North America (and the world) attempt to offer standardized education. One way to achieve this is through standardized tests.
Standardized tests measure what students within a school or school system are taught and learn. For example, some standardized tests measure IQ (intelligence), while others like the SATs and ACTs discern whether a college should accept a student.
For many, standardized tests only prove that a student can memorize information. They don’t believe that these types of tests measure progress, nor should the scores indicate a student’s success rate.
However, others believe that standardized testing shows students areas for improvement and offers an objective way to measure education.
Either way, it looks like standardized test systems are pretty ingrained within the modern school system. For example, it took until 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic to allow states to cancel standardized testing.
What’s the Point — Why Invent School?
So what’s the point? Why did those ancient Greeks discuss philosophy? Why did Horace Mann create a modern education system?
Since time began, human beings have needed to pass down information to survive. From generation to generation, skills like hunting, farming, cooking, and more, family units provided the necessary information children needed to survive.
However, as the global population grew, societies developed. People began to see how easy it was to have a few adults teach a bigger group of children.
It wasn’t until much later that schools focused on specific subjects like science, mathematics, literature, and creative arts.
Why School is Important?
Although some students might disagree, school is an important invention for many reasons.
One reason why school is so essential is that it helps children develop critical thinking skills and make good decisions.
Another reason school is important is that it introduces children to different subjects. Through these subjects, children can explore the things that interest them.
For example, when introduced to computer science, a child might want to further their studies and become a software programmer. For this reason, students take tests and exams and are given homework and essay assignments.
School is important for many other reasons too, including the fact that it:
- Fights Gender Inequality: In many places in the world, girls get much less education than boys, which means girls are more likely to get caught up in human trafficking or violence. Getting an education and school helps girls get better jobs and increase their income.
- Reduces Poverty: Educated children can earn better jobs. Better jobs lead to higher incomes for people in general. As a result, this reduces poverty for entire families.
- Builds Communities: For many children, a school is a place where they can explore, play and be themselves. School is also a space where parents can feel like they’re a part of something special too.
- Provides Opportunities: Schools offer unique opportunities to learn not only a variety of subjects but also to join extracurricular activities. For example, sports, music, or debate clubs provide scholarships and other beneficial options.
- Builds Confidence: School helps children build confidence in their skills. When children don’t feel confident, it affects how they move through the world. As a result, many children develop anxiety, preventing them from attaining goals and moving forward.
- Improves Socialization Skills: Children must socialize with their peers because it teaches them to listen to others, think critically, and solve problems.
When students go to elementary and high school and participate in post-secondary education, it benefits everyone on an individual and community scale. Therefore, schools benefit entire countries, which is why it’s so essential.
For more information on why school is important, check out this video.
7 Fun & Quick School Facts
Did you know that there’s more to school, education, and the invention of school than meets the eye?
Here are seven exciting and fun, quick facts about school.
- During the Han Dynasty, officials used standardized tests to determine which citizens could become government members.
- The Aztecs made school compulsory in the 1400s.
- Mann visited Europe to learn more about their school system and how they taught children. He also created a Common School Journal (1838). Both helped to form a more standardized teaching system.
- Harry P. School is a man also credited with the invention of school. In 1369, Harry gathered up misbehaving children and locked them in a room! Other adults didn’t seem to mind, so it’s often believed that the modern idea of teaching children in a single room came from this incident.
- Developed in 1914-1915, by school director Frederick J. Kelly, The Kansas Silent Reading Test is the first known multiple choice test.
- Education in Denmark doesn’t stop after post-secondary education. One out of three adults between 25-64 is involved in a continuing education course.
- The oldest school in the world is in Chengdu, China. Shishi High School was formed in 194 AD and became a modern school in 1902.
School and Kids Today
While it’s difficult to credit one person, or even one society with the invention of school, it’s interesting to note just how long we’ve used education to pass on crucial information.
Better still, despite how people might feel about standardized education or tests, there’s no doubt that school systems benefit children all over the world in many ways.
Excited about school, education or learning? Get involved! Tell us what you think about the history of school, who invented school, or why you think school is important. See you in the comments.
The picture on the front page: ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com
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