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In the Classroom > Course Overview > Unit Overview
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Lesson 9: Education and the Founding of the Academies

Lesson Central Question:

In This Lesson:

What is the role of education in advancing a community?

Lesson Length
Key Ideas

Lesson Length

1 class period (85 minutes)

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Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Teacher Background

From the late 17th century Massachusetts required schools for each town that had over 50 inhabitants. A school lot was often set-aside in early town designs. Education that provided one with the ability to read the Bible was at the heart of Protestantism. Massachusetts required that education be made available to both boys and girls, specifically addressing its importance in its state Constitution of 1779.

After the Revolutionary War, many young men and women from established families attended newly formed academies that offered a classical curricula to the young "scholars." For an additional fee, girls could also take lessons in the "ornamental arts," including painting and embroidery with classical, Biblical, or patriotic subject matter, as well as mapmaking. Attitudes toward educating young women were mixed. Many believed that the education of young women was important to the survival of the young republic because they played a crucial role in educating their sons, future leaders of our country. Men are, after all, women's work. On the public stage men act the parts their mothers taught them.

Teacher Background Essay: Education in 18th century Deerfield: An Overview

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Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will understand:

  • Deerfield people were interested in education and founded an academy in addition to local schools.

Students will be able to:

  • Use information gained from this and other times to develop a continuum showing the growth of the Deerfield community.

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In Preparation for Teaching

1. Read Teacher Background Essay: Education in 18th century Deerfield: An Overview

Further Background Readings:

Unger, Harlow Giles. The Life and Times of Noah Webster: An American Patriot. New York: Wiley, 1998.

Moorehead, Andrea and Robert. Deerfield Academy 1797-1997. Deerfield, MA: Deerfield Academy Press, 1997.

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Primary and Secondary Sources:

(found on American Centuries website unless otherwise noted)

  1. School books
  2. School girl art
  3. Regulations for the Government of the Schools in the Town of Deerfield, MA. by John Wilson, 1817. (not on website)
  4. "Young Ladies Literary Society 1813" Sermon by Rev. Lyman on the opening of Deerfield Academy.
  5. Kerber, Linda. "Why Should Girls Be Learned or Otherwise?: Education and Intellect in the Early Republic." Women of the Republic. Chapel Hill: UP North Carolina, 1988. (not on website)

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Activity Materials in Context
  • Examine the Deerfield document providing for education in the town.
  • Examine the schoolbooks to gain an understanding of the content of the textbooks that were present in the early schools.
  • Examine schoolgirl art from the website. Note the emphasis on national and classical themes.
  • Discuss Kerber's article "Why Should Girls Be Learned or Otherwise?" From this reading tell about the rationale for educating women, as well as the reservations that were also evident.
  • Locate and read about the "Young Ladies Literary Society 1813."
  • Divide the class into two groups and debate the topics that were listed in "Young Ladies Literary Society 1813," contrasting the 21st century point of view with the 19th century viewpoint.

Regulations for the Government of the Schools in the Town of Deerfield, MA


Young Ladies Literary Society 1813

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Debate participation.

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