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!

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.

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.

First known schools

Though it's possible that the "cavemen" had created a formal cave school that taught their cave children how to add, subtract, write poetry and perform other impressive skills with clubs, it's highly unlikely. The discovery of cuneiform mathematics textbooks, dated back to 2000 BC, however, suggests that some form of schools did most likely existed in Sumer at that time (now modern day Iraq). There's also evidence that suggests formal schools existing in China during the Hsia and Shang dynasties around the same time. Talk about having a head start! America wouldn't even be discovered until a few thousands of years later.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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?

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?

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.

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