Reflection #1: The Beginnings of American Education

Throughout this module we studied pre-colonial and colonial education and the many changes that it underwent as settlers tried to establish a system in America. This helped me better understand the history that is embedded deep into the educational model that I function in today. One of the things that struck me was how difficult it was to create an educational system that could reach all children. I have had many times where I have complained about having too many students in my video classes to adequately meet their needs or the wrong equipment. However, I can’t even comprehend the obstacles that the settlers faced such as the massacre at Henrico City (Urban and Wagoner, 2009, p. 22). These humbling thoughts have encouraged me to let go of excuses and work to overcome the obstacles, which we as teachers face on a daily basis.

In the discussion, I compared the educational goals of pre-colonial America with the objectives of our educational system today. Urban and Wagoner write that education “…served to unite the generations and to define one’s place among the ‘the people’” (2009, p. 10). Educators today attempt to reach these goals by teaching students how to process and evaluate information rather than just simple memorizing it. I do believe that education today is trying to help students grow as individuals so that they can find their place in greater society (H5 – Honoring student potential for roles in the greater society). Another student in my discussion, Kim Hamilton, made a truthful rebuttal to my thoughts because she said that a lot more could be done in schools to “unite the generations”, such as inviting the elderly to volunteer in classrooms. I agree and am contemplating ways to connect students not only with students from other grades, but also to people much older who could shed wisdom on their lives.

To conclude my thoughts, it was interesting to learn about the methods of teaching that first developed in the colonies and the people and institutions that were involved in that process. Urban and Wagoner propose that, “…Colonial America fostered educational institutions and arrangements that were essentially hierarchical, class bound, and markedly uneven in terms of opportunity” (2009, p. 63). They go on to say that a driving force of education was to enforce religious beliefs and political powers and institutions. I find it interesting that although this was a completely separate time in history with different needs for society, that same driving force can still be found interlaced through education today.


Urban, W.J. and Wagoner, J.L. (2009). American education, a history (4th ed.) New York, NY:Routledge.