Why Do Children Have to Go to School?

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According to the original Compulsory Education Act of 1852, the law dictating that all children must attend school was devised as an effort to ensure that every future adult citizen had a well-rounded and functional education. An educated citizenry was deemed to be at the core of a healthy republic, and mandatory schooling was intended to ensure the continued health of the nation.

Mandatory school attendance has been part of the lives of American children since 1852, when it was introduced to the citizens of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts General Court was the catalyst behind the educational revolution, passing a law that required every town in the jurisdiction to establish and maintain a schoolhouse for their children’s education. Heavy fines were imposed on parents who failed to comply with the new compulsory attendance laws, and the government even reserved the right to remove children from their homes, sending them to learn trades as apprentices elsewhere if it was determined that the parents were unfit to provide them with a quality education. After the benefits of the practice became apparent, the core tenets of the policy began to spread slowly throughout the union over the next 50 years, and the last state to make school attendance mandatory for minors was Mississippi in 1918.