Which US City Is Home To America's Oldest Public School?

Historical New England schoolhouse.
Historical New England schoolhouse.

The city of Boston in the state of Massachusetts is home to the first and the oldest public school in the US which was established on April 3rd, 1635. The school is known as Boston Latin School, and it was established as Latin grammar school following the model of English grammar schools. The aim was to train young people in classics in preparation to join the university. In 1789, the curriculum and the school were changed from the English model and the duration of the study reduced from 7 to 4 year. Currently, the school is offering four-year and six-year programs. In 1877, 242 years after the school was established, the college preparatory girl’s Latin school was established. In 1922, the Boston Latin School was changed to be a co-educational school.


The Puritans in America at the time were emphasizing on education at every age and level for the children starting at home with the main reason being to enable them to read the Bible which was used for moral and spiritual instruction. The leaders of the Puritans were acquainted with high educational standards, and most of them were graduates from renowned universities such as Cambridge and Oxford. Therefore they established Boston Latin School as the first school in the colony which was similar to the European Latin schools which emphasized subjects such as classical literature, religion, and Latin. In the beginning, the school was not funded by the public tax but by donations and land rentals. Several years later, a nearby school was established in a Dedham which became the first public school to be supported by the tax.


The Boston Latin School has produced several notable Americans in different fields ranging from politics both local and national, philosophy, journalism, music, science, and religion among many other fields. From the list of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, five were alumni of the Boston Latin School and they include John Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Paine, and William Hooper. Most of the former students and graduates of Boston Latin School fought in the American Civil War, the Revolutionary War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam War, and the Korean War.

Early Education In The US

Early education in the US was established particularly in New England which comprises of six states (Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) located in the northeastern part of the US.  Similarly, in 1639 another school was opened in Massachusetts in the city of the Dorchester. By the 19th century, the role that the schools played in New England had changed so significantly that it had replaced the traditional education given by the parents.

All the colonies in New England required towns to establish schools. In 1642, education was made compulsory by the colony of Massachusetts Bay with other colonies the following suit by adopting similar statutes between the 1640s and 1650s. At the time all schools admitted only boys. Blacks and girls who are not admitted but in the 18th century common schools were established that took boys and girls.

All the grammar schools established in New England were the forerunner of the modern high schools. At the turn of the 1780s, most of the grammar schools were replaced by private academies, and by 19th century New England had numerous private schools which are now known as the prep schools, which produced most of the students joining the Ivy League colleges particularly in the middle of the 19th century. By 1970s these schools were changed to become coeducational schools, and they have remained the most prestigious schools to this day.


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