What is the purpose of public schools?

Public education has evolved so much over the last few hundred years. In the early days during the 1700s to early 1800s, public school was not for everyone. Only the elite and few could go. And in the beginning, students who had the privilege of going to school learned about religion. According to Breckenmyre (n.d), the Puritans of New England wanted all of their students to read the Bible, and it was so important to them that they enforced this through the Massachusetts Bay School Law of 1642. Not all children could go to school because often they were required to know how to read and write, but many parents did not have the education themselves or the means to teach their children. A few years later, the Old Deluder Act of 1647 made it mandatory that towns had to establish their own school for the locals (Breceknmyre, (n.d). However, it was still not accessible for all children, and those that could go did not have the best of classroom conditions. They often had one classroom crammed with kids ranging from ages 5 to 20 with only one teacher and very little resources. Children of less wealthy families were to be educated by churches or other family members.

Two prominent people that had certain opinions about the American public school system was Thomas Jefferson and Catharine Beecher. Breckenmyre (n.d), stated that Thomas Jefferson wanted American children to be educated so as to create a democracy that generation of citizens that were informed well enough to be able to vote. He also created educational reform in the way of Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, which would allow for a happier and freer group of citizens. His whole premise of education was that he did not really care how children were educated, whether it be at home by a family member, or at a public school, just as long as it would create a nation of educated people in support of a democracy.

Catharine Beecher was a very interesting woman. She is known for the female teacher movement. Early in the days, teachers was a male dominant profession, but thanks to her and her beliefs that women are better educators and should be teaching instead of only doing domestic duties, there are more women in the profession. She led a movement of new female teahcers by doing lectures and educating them so they could travel west to open new schools. In Goldstein’s book (2014), The Teacher Wars, Catharine said some things that got me thinking. The first is this, “A lady should study, not to shine, but to act… She is to read books, not to talk of them, but to bring the improvement they furnish . . . . The great uses of study are to enable her to regulate her own mind and to be useful to others,” (Goldstein, p. 19, 2014). Although what she said about women as teachers makes sense, I do not see why this would be a female only thing. Men also can be teachers. Although, they do not have that same nurturing quality as women do. According to Goldstein, Catharine Beecher believed that the home and the school are two intertwined things in where a woman can nurture and teach, (Goldstein, p.18, 2014). As a mom and a teacher myself, I realize that I am always being nurturing, but at the same time, I am teaching. I may not be teaching academics necessarily, but I would be teaching him morals and values and how to be a good citizen in this world.

Nowadays, a public school is a place where a child can get a free education. What they are teaching in public schools now varies from state to state, even district to district. They all have curriculum that they follow and they teach a wide range of subjects, but there is one thing that is different from hundreds of years ago, and that is that they try to keep religion out of it, so it has come a long way from the old days where religion was the primary and sole focus. However, there are still some similarities between now and then. Even though public education is accessible to all, money does come into play and those schools that have more money tend to have better resources and often higher assessment scores compared to those schools that have a poorer demographics or a more diverse socioeconomic status.


Education to the Masses – US History Scene. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2016, from http://ushistoryscene.com/article/rise-of-public-education/

Goldstein, D. (2014). The Teacher Wars: A history of America’s most embattled profession. New York: Doubleday.



About Me


My name is Whitney Walston and I am a Deaf Ed masters student at Texas Woman’s University, currently in my second semester. I am deaf and I have been married for almost 5 years and I have a 3 1/2 year old son who I absolutely adore. I have a B.S. Degree in Geography with a minor in Geology. It was not until my last year of college that I decided I wanted to pursue a career in Deaf Education. I worked as a substitute teacher for Deaf Ed for a year and I realized that it was what I wanted to do instead of being in the environmental field, although being an environmentalist will always be a part of me.

Ideally, I would love to teach elementary Math and Science, but with Deaf Ed, that is not always possible. We have to be somewhat flexible in which grades/subjects we want to teach because there are only so many deaf students in certain schools and we work where we are needed. In my opinion, to be a good scientist, one should also be good at math, so these are the two subjects I enjoy teaching the most. Science allows kids to use their creativity and their problem solving skills.

Growing up as a deaf student, I faced challenges. From K-7th grades, I was mainstreamed at a public school with an American Sign Language interpreter, and then from 8th-12th grades, I went to Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, TX. At TSD, I was in classes where my teachers and classmates used ASL, so this was a different experience compared to mainstream classes where I was the only deaf student in a classroom of 25-30 students. Some of the challenges I experienced was struggles with paying attention and being able to write down notes at the same time. It was not until my college years that I had access to notetakers. Being that I am profoundly deaf, I am a visual learner, and so I highly depend on my interpreters and all visual aids in the classroom. Additionally, being able to participate in group discussions and projects is difficult as access to information is either delayed or limited. I am also a terrible test taker. I get super nervous and don’t always perform well even if I know the material at hand. Because I grew up in Deaf Ed, I was subject to a lot of testing outside of the classroom (reading levels, cognitive/IQ tests, etc) and hated that I had to take so many of them. Another thing I did not like from when I was in mainstream school was whenever we had to give a presentation of some sort, there would be interpreting issues between me and my interpreter and I would be embarrassed.

Most teachers in Deaf Ed in mainstream schools are hearing, so I feel like the fact that I am deaf will enable me to be a better teacher because I will understand my deaf and hard of hearing students’ needs and be able to give them the accommodations and modifications that they need in order to succeed in the classroom. Two of my favorite teachers I have ever had happened to be at TSD. They both were hearing, but knew ASL. They were the two teachers that always pushed me to do my best at all times because they knew I was capable of more and did not let me get away with mediocrity because I wanted to use my deafness as an excuse. Because of this, I will also do the same with my students.