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Public education was made mandatory in Massachusetts on the early date of 1647 by the Old Deluder Satan Law, “it being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former times keeping them in an unknown tongue, so in these later times by perswading [sic] from the use of tongues, that so at least the true sense and meaning of the Originall might be clowded by false glasses of Saint-seeming deceivers.”

In all of American history, there has been a tension between an impulse to make education available to every child and the desire to impose the values of one group on others. Prescriptive educational policies have had a bias against the ways of Native Americans or immigrants or people of divergent faiths from the beginning.  Wisconsin’s  Bennett Law of 1889 was a later example of the prescriptive nature of the education offered by Old Deluder Satan Law.

Today, Mass. General Laws, Chapter 76 § 1 sets out the requirements for compulsory education for every child. But this law is balanced by a panoply of other laws that address discrimination. These laws include the Equal Rights Amendment in the Massachusetts Constitution, Chapter 76 § 5, and the “Fair Educational Practices Act” in Chapter 151C of the General Laws, among others.

See “Massachusetts Law About Education.”

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