America’s First Mandatory Education Law Was Inspired by Satan

On a typical weekday in the U.S., about 50 million kids are in public school all around the country. You can thank mandatory education laws and a robust public school system for that. But how did the United States achieve compulsory education for all, anyway? The roots of the practice might be older than you think—and the laws that got the country on the road to mandatory education have a weird connection to Satan. Yes, Satan.

It all started in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a settlement of Puritans who emigrated from England. The settlers were part of a “great migration” of Puritans—about 20,000 total—who flocked to New England between 1629 and 1640, driven by a desire to lead pious lives and worship freely. Their religious practices were stern and fervent; as one historian writes, “Puritans lived in a constant state of spiritual anxiety, searching for signs of God's favor or anger.”

One particular worry was Satan—the dark lord capable of leading humanity astray through distractions, deceptions, and any number of temptations. “Satan hath his Mysteries to bring us to Eternal Ruine,” wrote Puritan minister John Hale in a typical anti-Satan screed. “Mysteries not easily understood, whereby the depths of Satan are managed in hidden wayes.”

Every aspect of life in the new colony reflected the Puritan’s preoccupation with the devil’s doings. Massachusetts Puritans enacted strict laws based on their values, and focused on community members’ shared responsibilities to their faith and to each other. Special attention was paid to the moral and educational development of children, who were expected to be obedient and submissive to their elders.

Back in England, the educational system had been haphazard: Rich children were educated by tutors or members of the clergy, while poor ones were left to fend for themselves. The Puritans decided to try another method. In 1642, they passed a law that required every household head to be responsible for the education of all of their children and dependents (servants). The law required that everyone be taught to read, and if a parent failed, their child could be removed from their home.

But by 1647, the Puritan General Court decided that parents in the colony were falling short of their duty. And so the Old Deluder Satan Act was born [PDF]. The law’s name came from its first line, which reminded parents that “one chief project of that old deluder, Satan” was to keep men from reading the Bible. It was thought that Satan would have less power over children who understood “the true sense and meaning” of the Bible, something that could only be guaranteed if the child could read it themselves, without needing to rely on the “false glosses of Saint-seeming-deceivers” for interpretation of scripture.

Instead of relying on parents to educate their kids, the law put the responsibility on towns. Townships with 50 households or more had to fork out money and hire a schoolmaster to teach children to write and read at a “petty” or elementary school. If towns had 100 households or more, they had to set up a petty school as well as a full grammar school—one whose masters were “able to instruct youth so far as they may be fitted for the Universitie.”

Today, the Old Deluder Satan Act is thought of as the nation’s first compulsory education law. It remained on the books until 1789, a year after Massachusetts became a state, when it was incorporated into the Massachusetts Education Act. By then, however, mention of Satan was nowhere to be found.

It took more than a century for the American public school system as we know it to really take hold; before the latter half of the 19th century, not all states had compulsory education laws, and high schools were not yet common [PDF]. That changed during the Progressive Era, when reformers set to work establishing free schools and mandatory education for everyone—and it all started with a group of people convinced that Satan was at work in their community.

15 Organizations Helping Women Around the World

Organizations supporting women and promoting equality and fairness in wages, in behavior, and with opportunities have spent years putting women's rights at the forefront of their missions. In honor of International Women's Day, held annually on March 8, we've compiled a list of organizations that are fueling this societal change for the better. Check out the institutions that are helping fight for what's fair, no matter where women are in the world.


A woman walks with her child

Since 2007, this advocacy group has been empowering under-privileged women in Uganda by offering business training and access to microloans to help facilitate their professional independence. The group's contributions have emboldened Ugandans, with five women affiliated with WGEF's programs running for—and winning—political office in 2016.


A Center for Reproductive Rights illustration
Center for Reproductive Rights

Supporting a woman's right to make decisions about her own body is the focus of this legal consortium, which has had impact on local and international laws. They've had influence over reproductive health policies in Asia, Africa, and the U.S., and helped shed light on an oppressive abortion ban in El Salvador that's led to women being jailed for stillbirths. Their efforts on behalf of "Las 17," 17 Salvadoran women accused of having abortions, has seen several women released from prison; the efforts are ongoing.


The Women for Women International logo
Women for Women International

This nonprofit seeks to support women displaced or marginalized by conflict and oppression in eight foreign territories including Iraq and Rwanda. Many of their efforts are education-based, facilitating classes and finding opportunities for graduates. Currently, the group is offering psychosocial and educational resources to Syrian women in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, with a goal of reaching over 3000 women in the next three years.


A classroom facilitated by School Girls Unite
School Girls Unite

This nonprofit tackles education discrimination among young women in developing countries. In Mali, Africa, for example, only one in four girls make it to 7th grade. School Girls Unite subsidizes their education, often at a cost as little as $75 per child, and follows the recipients to encourage them to complete their education.


The Time's Up logo
Time's Up

The personal and professional consequences of reporting sexual harassment in the workplace have often made it difficult for women to speak out. Fearing they'll be ostracized, they remain quiet. On top of that, legal action can be costly. Backed by the National Women's Law Center, the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund seeks to provide legal assistance for women looking to battle harassment in court. Just two months into their existence, organizers have fielded 1700 requests from all across the world, including the U.S., Kenya, and Kuwait.


A mother holds her child's hand

Model Christy Turlington Burns founded this activist group that seeks to improve medical care for mothers around the world by training professionals, improving transportation to care facilities, and donating crucial supplies to clinics. The organization has arranged grants that have improved mother mortality rates in Tanzania, Haiti, and India.


A book is open to the definition of equality

Putting an end to unjust and gender-biased laws is the focus of Equality Now, which has helped change over 50 laws and pursued equal rights since its inception in 1992. Thanks to their activism, women in Kuwait have voting rights; in the U.S., the group's protests and engagement also helped pass the first law prohibiting sex tourism.


A woman works in a field

Persistent cultural traditions endorse the practice of female genital cutting (FGC), which involves the removal of external female genitalia. Risky, unnecessary, and invasive, the tradition is being challenged by Orchid Project, which aims to end the practice by circulating educational information in areas like Ethiopia.


A person types on a laptop

Since 1987, this social enterprise has pursued the mission statement of founder Anita Borg by putting women in a position to excel in the technology field. The group provides resources for education in coding and diversity both in the U.S. and abroad. In India, they organize career fairs for women only, offering companies the chance to improve their gender diversity in the workforce.


A woman sits with her child

Offering financial resources to poverty-stricken areas of Guatemala, Friendship Bridge offers opportunities for education and entrepreneurial training that would otherwise be unavailable.  By offering microcredit loans, women collaborate with other members of a "trust" and take part in educational sessions as part of the terms of the loan. By combining capital with resources, Friendship Bridge is able to facilitate better working conditions for the population.


The Pathfinder International logo
Pathfinder International

Pathfinder seeks to eliminate barriers to health or reproductive services in over 19 countries, working to end unsafe abortions and HIV transmission. The group also offers family planning counseling and aims to expand the availability of contraceptives.


Articles of clothing are arranged on a rack

Wearing the appropriate attire for a job interview is crucial for prospective employees. For over 20 years, the caregivers at Dress for Success have been helping women realize their professional goals by providing apparel they might not otherwise be able to afford. The nonprofit accepts clothing donations and then distributes them to countries and areas that may not have wardrobe resources on hand.


A Global Fund for Women infographic
Global Fund for Women

Movements big and small have been influenced by this nonprofit that seeks to finance efforts toward equality. The group has helped over 5000 directives in 175 countries since 1987, including efforts to improve women's working conditions and halt human trafficking.


A woman sits in a field

Helping women thrive in rural India in the focus of this nonprofit, which prioritizes education, health care, and gender equality. Their goals have emphasized self-defense training for women as well as financial management skills. 


The MADRE logo

Following wars or natural disasters, MADRE teams with local community leaders to create solutions. When resources are scarce, the organization brings in the tools necessary for women to help rebuild. In Kenya, that can mean clean water; in Colombia, it could mean art therapy for survivors of war or abuse.   

This Buzzed-About Modular Hive System Lets You Keep Your Bees Indoors

Have you ever considered beekeeping as a hobby? Would you enjoy the ticking time-bomb sensation that comes with keeping hundreds of bees under glass inside your home, as opposed to in the backyard or at some other safe distance from your living room? If you answered yes to both of these questions, the BEEcosystem might be for you.

Described as an observational honeybee hive, these 21-inch by 18-inch hexagonal displays are intended to be wall-mounted and feature a clear glass front that lets users stare into the bee abyss, as Business Insider reports.

When mounted indoors, the units come with a clear transfer tube that runs outdoors via a window sash so bees can forage for pollen. (If the tube gets dislodged, an auto-closing mechanism ensures that bees don’t invade your home.) The company strongly recommends that the units be mounted on wall studs to accommodate the weight of the bees and their honey.

A dog observes a BEEcosystem panel

The BEEcosystem also has a sliding feed panel so that you can nourish your new colony with water and table sugar, as well as a light-filtering cover so the bees aren’t disturbed by artificial light sources in the evening. The units can also be chain-linked to accommodate growing populations

You might be wondering if—angry bees in your kitchen aside—this is actually a good idea. When the BEEcosystem was beginning to get press during its developmental stages in 2015, some beekeepers voiced concerns about whether the consistently warm temperatures of indoor living might influence a bee’s life cycle, or if they might be more prone to disease. Since there's not yet a surplus of people with bee displays mounted on their dining room walls, no one's quite sure yet, but you can see how the system works in the video below.

You can preorder the hives, which are expected to ship later this year, for $599 each.

[h/t Business Insider]


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