We’re pretty used to the idea of kids going to school and getting an education before they get to throw it all away by moving to L.A. or, more likely, finding out that the job market is a giant farce where the importance of your educational qualification will often mean as much as any thread of realism found in a James Wan movie. Still, though, it’s nice to learn how to read.

The point is that we seldom think about the fact that education is compulsory in the United States, and would you believe it, we have the Lord of Darkness to thank for it. 

During the 1600s and before the official states even existed, the Puritan immigrants who came from England and settled in Massachusetts Bay Colony lived a simple life, feeding their goats and worshipping their God. Or at least, so we would probably think of that time, when in fact, those people were living in a constant state of religion-induced anxiety in which they were always on the lookout for “signs of God” that might indicate his anger or displeasure with pretty much every little thing they did. 

Petre Kratochvil/Public Domain Pictures

“Oh Lord, I burnt the toast! I shall prepare for thy divine smiting!”

As with many religious folks, these Puritans seemed to fear and develop an obsession not only with God but with Satan, too, and equally so. They believed that as much as God was always watching and judging their every move like some obsessive spouse who’ll most definitely end up with a murder charge, Satan was watching them too. They believed he was constantly trying to trip their faith through tricks and deception as only the ol’ Devil could.

The Puritans were strict in their teachings, insisting that children should be educated by their parents and taught God’s morals. In 1642 they passed a law that put the onus on the head of every household to ensure the proper education of both the children of the house as well as any dependents and servants. Everyone was to be taught how to read, and children were removed from homes where the parents didn’t teach them their ABCs. This was all to make sure that every child would be able to read the Book of God.

Of course, not all households gave a crap about what the law said because humans will never change. So in 1647, the Puritan General Court said, “Screw it,” and made education mandatory in the colony. And it was all because they saw illiteracy as the Devil’s plan. Yes, parents who did not teach their kids to read were actually blameless. It was all Satan’s doing because he didn’t want anyone to read the Bible. 

The law was called the Old Deluder Satan Act, and it took the responsibility away from the parents and made it a community priority. Villages with more than 50 households had to pitch in and hire a schoolmaster for the town's children, and townships with more than 100 households had to build a proper school. 

And that is how the United States acquired its very first compulsory education law. Thanks, Satan.

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Top Image: Jay Wennington/Unsplash

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