American Education: The First 12 Years


Americans believe that every citizen has both the right and obligation to become educated. The citizens of a democracy need to be educated so that they can take part in affairs of government, both local and national. They must also learn vocational skills.

  In order to develop an educated population, all states have compulsory school attendance laws. These laws vary somewhat from one state to another, but generally they require that formal schooling begin by age 6 and continue until at least 16. However, most Americans attend school at least until high school graduation, when they are 17 or 18 years old. About 75% of all American adults and about 85% of younger American adults are high school graduates.
  The size of the nation's basic educational enterprise is astonishing. From kindergarten through high school, about 46 million students are enrolled in school. To educate this vast number of students, Americans employ about 2.7 million teachers, by far the largest professional group in the country.

 Public And Private Schools

  About 88% of American children receive their elementary and high school education in the nation's public shools. These schools have the following important characteristics in common:
  a) They are supported by taxes and, therefore, do not charge tuition.
  b) In general, they are neighborhood schools, open to all students who live within the district.
  c) They are co-educational, which means that boys and girls attend the same schools and have nearly all of their classes together. By providing girls with equal educational opportunity, American public schools have helped to create today's sellsufficient American woman.
  d) Public schools are required to follow some state guidelines regarding, for example, curriculum and teacher qualifications. But, in most matters, schools are locally controlled. Each school district is run by an elected Board of Education and the school administrators that Board hires. This system creates strong ties between the district's schools and its community.
  e) Public schools are nonsectarian (secular), which means that they are free from the influence of any religion. As a result, children of many different religions feel comfortable attending the public schools, and the public school system has been able to help a diverse population build a common culture.
  Private school can be divided into two categories: parochial (supported by a particular religious group) and secular (nonreligious). Private schools charge tuition and are not under direct public control, although many states set educational standards for them. In order to attend a private school, a student must apply and be accepted. Parochial schools make up the largest group of private schools, and most of these are operated by the Roman Catholic Church. Private secular schools are mainly high schools and colleges.