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QUAKER FAMILY EDUCATION IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE By Jack D. Marietta* The transfer of culture by means of parents educating and socializing their children has received considerable attention since Bernard Bailyn wrote his provocative essay, Education in the Forming of American Society. The recent literature on New England and the Puritan family is especially abundant, and in this essay the author has relied heavily upon it. Quaker education has received less attention and most of its students focus on more conventional agencies like schools and colleges. When one examines the Quaker family in the terms which Bailyn suggested for the study of the American, family, the Quaker family invites comparison with its Puritan equivalent. The object of this essay is briefly to examine the importance of family education to Pennsylvania Quakers, and to draw some comparisons with the Puritan family in New England. Both the Quaker and the Puritan families were initially the foremost educational agencies in their respective communities and both were charged with the responsibility of transmitting their cultures across the generations. Yet the Quaker family ultimately retained its preeminence as teacher, whereas the Puritan family declined concomitantly with the decline of New England's peculiar culture. The differing fortunes of the two families help to illuminate the relationship between the maintenance of a cultural message, and the status of the family in transmitting that message.1 In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century America the family was necessarily the foremost agency for the transmission of culture. The wilderness or rural environment in America prevented the family from sharing its responsibility of education with such institutions of urban Europe as schools, colleges, guilds, churches, and traditional *Jack Marietta is a member of the History Department at the University of Arizona. He held the T. Wistar Brown Fellowship in Quaker History at Haverford College in 1972-73. 1. Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Family (New York, 1966). Bernard Bailyn, Education in the Forming of American Society (Chapel Hill, 1960). Lawrence A. Cremin, American Education: The Colonial Experience (New York, 1970). John Demos, A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony (New York, 1970). Bailyn, p. 14. 4 QUAKER HISTORY communities. When more than ninety per cent of Americans lived in a rural situation, the American family was necessarily a more important teacher than its European counterpart.2 Equally apparent as the early preeminence of the family is its comparative decline in importance between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In both centuries it remained preeminent among educational agencies; yet the family of the eighteenth century did not retain all the burdens and singular responsibility that the family had assumed in the seventeenth. ". . .the history of the family in America," writes John Demos, "has been a history of contraction and withdrawal; its central theme is the gradual surrender to other institutions of functions that once lay very much within the realm of family responsibility."3 The family declined in the eighteenth century because the wilderness , which earlier inhibited the founding of schools and other educational institutions, retreated and was replaced by a richer, urban society. But the family lost not only the responsibilities which the urban tide carried off; seventeenth-century Americans deliberately reclaimed others from it. Especially in New England, where abundant land did not lure Congregationalists from their communities , and geographical isolation did not prohibit the use of alternative agencies like church and community, the family's preeminence was deliberately cultivated and later, deliberately reduced. The ideology and unity of the Christian, Utopian, Closed, Corporate Community in New England, to use Kenneth Lockridge's term, supplied the circumstances which wilderness provided elsewhere. The family was chosen to be the primary vehicle for the perpetuation of that ideology, or for the transmission of the synoptic culture of New England.4 Very early in its history, according to Professor Bailyn, the family was belittled for not satisfying the high expectation New Englanders had for it. Family failure to educate children properly led to the 1642 Massachusetts statute which required parents to see to the religious, civic, and vocational training of their children. Despite this exhortation to perform, the families continued to falter, for in 1647 Massachusetts and Connecticut ordered all towns to create 2...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 3-16
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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