History of Education in Utah

Taken from the Utah History Encyclopedia (Links Added)

In common with other nineteenth century Americans, many Utahns desired formal schooling for their children. But desiring education and schools, is not synonymous with actually having education and schools. Social, political, and economic conditions can thwart aspirations and reduce educational commitment to expressions of rhetoric. Even mandates for education that are rooted in religious ideals are frequently modified by inescapable realities.

Utah schools in the nineteenth century reflected the patchwork quilt of aspiration, apathy, rhetoric and actual commitment which characterized much of century's education at the national level-some communities were pockets of educational excellence and others displayed only minimal commitment. Some parents wanted as much formal schooling as was possible for their children; others were hostile to book learning. There were also communities (such as Draper and the Second Ward in Salt Lake City) that stretched themselves economically to support schools. Much depended on local economic circumstances and the personal commitment of local ecclesiastical leadership.

Most elementary schools in the 1850s and 1860s were organized on the basis of Mormon Wards with the church meeting house serving as the school house during the week. These ward schools differed widely in their curriculum offerings and the quality of their teaching. They were in essence quasi-public Mormon schools, controlled by local trustees appointed by Mormon bishops; they reflected Mormon community values, used Mormon scriptures as supplemental texts and supported in part by tuition from patrons and local taxes. As early as 1851 the office of territorial superintendent of schools was created, promoting the centralization of school policy and curriculum at least in theory if not in practice. During the pioneer period up to 1869, in the words of John C. Moffitt, "very little was done in Utah for education beyond the rudiments of learning."

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