A History of Education Timeline

This is a brief History of Education and EduTech in the United States. Please refer to the last timeline date for the bibliography. Enjoy!

0035 BC-01-01 00:00:00


In a series of books titled "The Institutes of Oratory," Quintilian wrote about current educational practices, recommended the type of educational system needed in Rome, and listed the great books that were in existence at that time. Quintilian became one of the most influential Roman educators. Would the term "Educator Superhero" be taking it too far?

0050 BC-01-01 00:00:00

Development of Roman Schools

The Greek influence on the Roman education system helped an entire system of schools to develop. Some children, after learning to read and write, attended a graminaticus school to study Latin, literature, history, math, music, and dialectics. These Latin grammar schools were very similar to the 20th century secondary schools.

0384 BC-01-01 00:00:00


The next great philosopher was Aristotle, a student of Plato's and teacher of Alexander the Great. Aristotle believed that a person's most important purpose in life was to serve and improve humankind. He believed that the quality of a society had such a direct correlation to the quality of that societies education system, that it was a must for a society to make education a top priority. Aristotle, unlike Socrates and Plato, took a very scientific and practical approach to education. People who like to get hands on with the world instead of just thinking up things in their big brains have a lot to thank Aristotle for.

0400-01-01 00:00:00

Dark ages

Relatively little was recorded during this period of history -so little in fact, that the most descriptive title anyone could come up with that described the period was "The Dark Ages". Brilliant. During this period, political and religious oppression toward the common people stunted their ability to innovate and grow intellectually as the Greeks and Romans once had. The lack of growth, in many ways, actually caused human knowledge to regress in Europe. Though formal education wasn't an option for the common person, advances in human thinking were still made by certain key people in either the church or that were part of a wealthy family (person of power). If people in the middle ages are looked down on in history books as being uneducated, then why do we Americans love studying about, reading about and watching movies that take place during the dark ages?

0427 BC-01-01 00:00:00


Plato, a disciple / student of Socrates, wrote many of Socrates's ideas down and took some of his ideas one step further. Plato suggested that society should contain three classes of people: artisans (the working class), soldiers (people to defend society), and the philosophers (or the government, needed to rule society). Plato believed that each person in a society should be well educated in their specific, chosen role, allowing the society as a whole to benefit. Schools today have been heavily influenced by Plato's ideas toward education and his breakdown of the different classes that people can choose to be part of.

0455 BC-01-01 00:00:00

Age of Pericles

The thirst for knowledge in Greece continued to grow until it was enough to generate an organized desire for formal education. This time period is known as the Age of Pericles, when many of the Greek city-states created their own versions of formal education. The Greek city-state Sparta used education to gear children towards becoming effective military support. The aims of Spartan education centered on developing such ideals as courage, patriotism, obedience, cunningness, and physical strength. Athens, another Greek city-state, developed an education program that was even more influential to our U.S. education system, as it strongly stressed intellectual and aesthetic goals. Between the ages of 8 and 16, many Athenian boys attended a series of public schools that taught grammar, reading, writing, music, history, math, and many other subjects that are still being taught in the United States.

0470 BC-01-01 00:00:00


A man of legend in not only the educational world, but in most of the intellectual world today, Socrates was one of the Western world's first great philosophers. No actual writings from Socrates himself have been found, but Socrates's predecessors and students, Xenophon and Plato, wrote down most (we hope all) of his great ideas. The method of teaching that Socrates came up with, the creatively named, "Socratic Method," involves the teacher asking a series of questions which leads the student to a certain conclusion. This method is extremely effective in not only allowing a student to memorize knowledge, but also being able to apply the knowledge and formulate that knowledge into a refined answer.

0735-01-01 00:00:00


Once upon a time, Charlemagne, tired of living in the "dark," sought far and wide for a talented educator who could improve the education system in the kingdom. "Is there no one who is willing to take on this great task?" cried Charlemagne (…okay, not sure if he actually said those words, but...). Long story short, Charlemagne did select Alcuin as the chief educational adviser. Alcuin became the most famous educator of his day. It is reported that Charlemagne himself often sat in the Palace School with the children, trying to further his own "meager education." ...U.S. politicians might learn a few things from having this attitude...

1225-01-01 00:00:00

Thomas Aquinas

Up until this point in the dark ages, the church did not encourage commoners to study the bible on their own, but rather, they thought that they should be taught from educated priests in the Roman Catholic Church. One large problem with this method (other than the obvious problem of only hearing the Bible read briefly once a week) is that, as much power as the church had, many priests were corrupt as they became priest just for the power that it gave them (think televangelist crooks today siphoning money from the poor). As a theologian, Thomas Aquinas, more than any other person, helped to change the church's views on learning and how commoners were to grow in biblical knowledge. Aquinas wrote the "Summa Theologic," which became the doctrinal authority of the Roman Catholic Church and formalized "Scholasticism," the logical and philosophical study of the beliefs of the church. Rooted in the ideas of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas helped lead the creation of new learning institutions such as the medieval universities.

1300-01-01 00:00:00

The Renaissance

The Renaissance represented the protest of individuals against the dogmatic authority that the church exerted over their social and intellectual life. The Renaissance started in Italy when people reacquired the spirit of free inquiry that had prevailed in Ancient Greek. The Renaissance slowly spread through Europe, resulting in a general revival of classical learning called "humanism."

1483-01-01 00:00:00

Martin Luther and the Reformation

The Protestant Reformation had its formal beginning in 1517. In that year, Martin Luther published his ninety-five theses, which stated his disagreements with the Roman Catholic Church. One of these disagreements held great implications for the importance of formal education. Martin Luther was strongly convicted against the church's practices of not allowing commoners to study the Bible lest they misinterpret the Bible's meaning. Much like an over protective parent, the Roman Catholic Church was essentially afraid to let commoners think on their own "lest they get hurt." Luther fought against this and argued for the importance of education, as it allowed individuals to read and interpret the Bible for themselves.

1632-01-01 00:00:00

Concerning Human Understanding

John Locke wrote an essay titled "Concerning Human Understanding," which explains his belief that the human mind is a "tabula rasa," or "blank slate," at birth and knowledge is derived through experience, rather than innate ideas as was believed by many at that time. Locke's views concerning the mind and how people learn have strongly influenced American education.

1636-01-01 00:00:00

Harvard and other Colleges Established

Harvard, the first colonial college, was established to prepare ministers. Just a few years later, other American colleges such as William and Mary, Yale, Princeton, King's College, College of Philadelphia, Brown, Dartmouth and Queen's College were established. College is here... Let the impending student debts begin!

1642-01-01 00:00:00

Massachusetts Bay School Law

The Massachusetts Bay School Law required that parents assure their children know the principles of religion and the capital laws of the commonwealth. Just one small step towards man being fully educated… one giant leap towards Compulsory Education!

1647-01-01 00:00:00

Old Deluder Satan Act

The Old Deluder Satan Act decreed that every town of at least 50 families hire a schoolmaster who would teach the town's children to read and write and that all towns of at least 100 families should have a Latin grammar school master who would prepare students to attend Harvard College. I'm pretty sure that the same brilliant person who came up with the name for the "dark ages," thought of this name. …Truly gets children excited to learn…

1690-01-01 00:00:00

New England Primer

The New England Primer was the first reading primer designed for the American Colonies. It became the most successful educational textbook published in 18th century America and it became the foundation of most schooling before the 1790s.

1693-01-01 00:00:00

Some Thoughts Concerning Education

John Locke's, "Some Thoughts Concerning Education," was published, describing his views on educating upper class boys to be moral, rationally-thinking, and reflective "young gentlemen." (Aka, smooth with the ladies... okay, maybe that wasn't his original intent...)

1700-01-01 00:00:00


Wooden paddles with printed lessons were popular in the colonial era. On the paper usually contained the alphabet and a religious verse which the children would copy to help them learn how to write. (If the children failed to memorize their verses, the Hornbook doubled as a paddle... one of the first "Transformers" in history.

1706-01-01 00:00:00

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin formed the American Philosophical Society, which helped bring ideas of the European Enlightenment, including those of John Locke, to colonial America. He also saw the need for more and better trained skilled workers and so he proposed a new kind of secondary school in Pennsylvania. This proposal brought about the establishment, in Philadelphia in 1751, of the first truly American educational institution - the American Academy.

1751-01-01 00:00:00

American Academy

The educational institution that Benjamin Franklin helped to establish was first called the "English Academy" with a curriculum that was both classical and modern, including such courses as history, geography, navigation, surveying, and modern as well as classical languages. The academy ultimately became the University of Pennsylvania.

1762-01-01 00:00:00

Jean-Jacques Rousseau'

Jean-Jacques Rousseau' published Emile, which describes his views on education. Rousseau's ideas on the importance of early childhood education were in sharp contrast with the prevailing views of his time and influence not only contemporary philosophers, but also 20th-Century American philosopher and educational reformer John Dewey.

1779-01-01 00:00:00

Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson proposed a two-track educational system, with different tracks for "the laboring and the learned." Why waste your time with information that you will never use?

1783-01-01 00:00:00

American Spelling Book

Because of his dissatisfaction with English textbooks of the day, Noah Webster wrote a Grammatical Institute of the English Language, consisting of three volumes: a spelling book, a grammar book, and a reader. They became very widely used throughout the United States. In fact, the spelling volume, later renamed the American Spelling Book and often called the Blue-Backed Speller, has never been out of print! I doubt that book series like "Twilight" will have the same lasting implications.

1801-01-01 00:00:00


James Pillans invented the blackboard in 1801. Still very popular today, the chalkboard is one of the best inventions in education (or educational technology for that matter).

1820-01-01 00:00:00

School Slate

The slate was a personal learning tool. A Boston school superintendent in 1870 best described the slate by saying, “if the result of the work should, at any time, be found infelicitous, a sponge will readily banish from the slate all disheartening recollections, and leave it free for new attempts." Slates are what the modern tablet computers (like the iPad) are loosely based on.

1852-01-01 00:00:00

Compulsory Education

During the Reformation in 1524, Martin Luther advocated compulsory schooling so that all parishioners would be able to read the Bible themselves, and Strasbourg—then a free city of the Holy Roman Empire—passed accordant legislation in 1598. Compulsory school attendance on this model gradually spread to other countries, reaching the American State of Massachusetts in 1852, and spreading to other states until, in 1917, Mississippi was the last state to enact a compulsory attendance law.

1854-01-01 00:00:00

Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library opened to the public. It was the first major tax-supported free library in the U.S.

1867-01-01 00:00:00

Christopher Sholes

Christopher Sholes invented the "modern" typewriter. Known as the Sholes Glidden, it was first manufactured by E. Remington & Sons in 1873. T9 predictive text was a feature added much much later....

1870-01-01 00:00:00

Magic Lantern

Not to be confused with the "Green Lantern," the Magic lantern was the precursor to a slide projector. The device projected images printed on glass plates and showed them in darkened rooms to students. By the end of World War I, Chicago’s public school system had roughly 8,000 lantern slides.

1876-01-01 00:00:00

Dewey Decimal System

The Dewey Decimal System, developed by Melvil Dewey in 1873, was published and patented. The DDC is the worlds most widely-used library organizational / classification system still used today. That's almost 200 years organizational power! Most people can't manage to keep their room organized for a day...

1884-01-01 00:00:00

Fountain Pen

The first practical fountain pen, the capillary feed pen, was patented by Lewis Waterman. This device made passing notes in class -er, I mean, writing essays, considerably easier.

1891-01-01 00:00:00

Standford University Founded

Stanford University was founded in 1891 by former California Governor and railroad tycoon Leland Stanford in memory of his son, Leland Jr.

1892-01-01 00:00:00

High School Curriculum

Formed by the National Education Association to establish a standard secondary school curriculum, the Committee of Ten, recommended a college-oriented high school curriculum that laid the foundation to modern high schools today.

1900-01-01 00:00:00

Pencils and Paper

Mass-produced paper and pencils became more readily available and pencils eventually replaced the school slate, making it easier to write. This shift in writing tools was a great move for children, but a horrible one for all of the cute forest animals living in the trees...

1900-01-01 00:00:00

Association of American Universities

The Association of American Universities was founded to promote higher standards and to put U.S. universities on an equal footing with their European counterparts.

1901-01-01 00:00:00

First Community College

Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois, opened, becoming the first public community college in the U.S.

1905-01-01 00:00:00

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching was founded. It was charted by an act of Congress in 1906, the same year the Foundation encouraged the adoption of a standard system for equation "seat time" to high school credits. The system was called the "Carnegie Unit".

1909-01-01 00:00:00

Ella Flagg Young

Educational reformer Ella Flagg Young became superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools. She was the first female superintendent of a large city school system. One year later, she was elected president of the National Education Association.

1916-01-01 00:00:00

John Dewey

John Dewey's "Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education" was published. Dewey's views helped advance the ideas of the "progressive education movement." An outgrowth of the progressive political movement, progressive education sought to make schools more effective agents of democracy.

1917-01-01 00:00:00

Army Alpha and Beta Tests

As the U.S. entered W.W.I, the army had no means of screening the intellectual ability of its recruits. Robert Yerkes, then President of the American Psychological Association and an army officer, becomes Chairman of the Committee on Psychological Examination of Recruits. The committee, which included Louis Terman, had the task of developing a group intelligence test. He and his team of psychologists designed the Army Alpha and Beta tests. Though these tests had little impact on the war, they laid the groundwork for future standardized tests.

1917-01-01 00:00:00

First Radio Education Program

WHA began broadcasting music education programs on the radio. This was one of the first uses of audio for education. This laid the foundation for many teaching technologies that are used today.

1919-01-01 00:00:00

Public School Transportation

All states by 1919 had laws to provide funds for transporting children to school.

1919-01-01 00:00:00

Progressive Education Association

The Progressive Education Association was founded with the goal of reforming American education.

1926-01-01 00:00:00


The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) was first administered in 1926, being based on the Army Alpha test. The SAT is owned, published, and developed by the College Board, a nonprofit organization in the United States. It was formerly developed, published, and scored by the Educational Testing Service which still administers the exam. The test is intended to assess a student's readiness for college.

1930-01-01 00:00:00

Overhead Projector

Initially used by the U.S. military for training purposes in World War II, overhead projectors quickly spread to schools and other organizations around the country allowing for visual elements to be added to lessons that the entire class could see at the same time.

1938-01-01 00:00:00

Ballpoint Pen

While it was originally invented in 1888, it was not until 1940 that the ballpoint pen started to gain worldwide recognition as being a useful tool in the classroom and life in general. The first ballpoint pens went on sale at Gimbels department store in New York City on 29 October 1945 for US $9.75 each. This pen was widely known as the rocket in the U.S. into the late 1950s.

1939-01-01 00:00:00

National School Buses

Frank W. Cyr, a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College, organized a national conference on student transportation. The conference resulted in the adoption of standards for the nation's school buses, including the shade of yellow.

1939-01-01 00:00:00

IQ Testing

The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale was developed by David Wechsler. It introduced the concept of the "deviation IQ", which calculates IQ scores based on how far subjects' scores deviat from the average score of others who are the same age. These tests are still widely used in US schools today to help identify students needing special education and to help discover which students should just stay on the family farm... (no not really).

1946-11-18 16:50:27

First Computer

The computer age began as the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), the first vacuum-tube computer, was built for the U.S. military by Presper Eckert and John Mauchly. This single invention marks one of the greatest inventions of all time.

1950-11-18 16:50:27

Slide Rulers Regain Popularity

William Oughtred and others developed the slide rule based on the emerging work on logarithms by John Napier. Before the advent of the pocket calculator, the slide ruler was the most commonly used calculation tool in science and engineering. The use of slide rules continued to grow through the 1950s and 1960s even as digital computing devices were being gradually introduced; however, around 1974 the electronic scientific calculator made it largely obsolete

A History of Education Timeline

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