J. Grant Swank, Jr.
Children went to school to learn their three R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic.
Embossing that learning was the Christian faith.
For instance, read from “The NEW ENGLAND PRIMER IMPROVED, For the More Easy Attaining of English, Adorned with Cuts, To Which Is Added ‘The Assembly of the Divines’ CATHECISM (Albany, Whiting, Backus and Whiting) And Sold Retail At Their Store।”
That is what reads on the front cover of The NEW ENGLAND PRIMER IMPROVED.
On Page One of that Primer was the following:
A Divine Song of Praise to God, for a Child
By the Rev. Dr. Watts.
How glorious is our heav’nly King
Who reigns above the sky!
How shall a child presume to sing
His dreaded Majesty?
How great His power is, none can tell,
Nor think how large His grace,
Nor men below, nor saints that dwell
On high before His face,
Nor angels that stand round the Lord,
Can search His secret will;
But they perform His heav’nly Word
And sing His praises still.
Then let me join his holy train,
And my first off’rings bring,
Th’ Eternal God will not disdain
To hear an infant sing.
My heart resolves, my tongue obeys,
And angels shall rejoice,
To hear their Mighty Maker’s praise
Sound from a feeble voice.
The content of instruction in colonial schools was primarily Christian.
Here is an alphabetic listing of statements containing religious and moral maxims that the student was required to memorize:
A: "A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the heaviness of his Mother”
B: "Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble therewith”
C: "Come into Christ all ye that labor and are heavy handed and He will give you rest"
The alphabet guide to spelling was followed by this statement: "Now the child being entered in his letters and spelling, let him learn, these and such sentences by heart, whereby he will be both instructed in his duty and encouraged in his learning:
Q: What is the end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to Glorify God and to enjoy him forever
Q: What rule hath God given to direct us
A: The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, is the
only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him
For more, read from the NEW ENGLAND PRIMER at http://public.gettysburg.edu/~tshannon/his341/nep1805contents.html