Over 57 million students are enrolled in American schools, which range from kindergartens to high schools, small colleges, large universities, as well as a variety of institutions for adult education and vocational training. Americans place a high value on education for themselves and their children, and universal access to quality education has been one of the nation's historic goals.
More than 100 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, European settlers in Massachusetts passed laws requiring all communities to hire schoolmasters; larger towns had to establish grammar schools to train children for the university. America's first college, Harvard, was founded in Massachusetts in 1636, and the second, William and Mary, was established in Virginia in 1693.
Higher education was revolutionized in 1862 by the Morrill Act, which granted federal lands to each state for the creation of agricultural and mechanical colleges. These "land-grant" institutions legitimized vocational and technical education.
By the end of the Civil War in 1865, education was becoming available to all, and educational institutions began to shape a distinctive American culture. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the schools were instrumental in "Americanizing" the massive numbers of immigrants who arrived in the United States. Indeed, the 20th century America is the product of a nationalism defined in large part by its schools.
Perhaps the most noteworthy feature about American education is the absence of a national administration or structure. Each of the 50 states controls and directs its own schools. Most states require that children attend school from the time they reach six or seven years old until they are 16 or 17. Educational requirements are set by the state legislatures, and public schools are managed by local communities, divided into about 15,500 state school districts.
About 85 percent of American students attend public schools which are supported by state and local taxes. The other 15 percent attend private schools, for which their families choose to pay special attendance fees. Four out of five American private schools are run by churches, synagogues or other religious groups.
In addition, schools have for many years received federal aid for special purposes, such as vocational training and school lunches. In 1965 Congress approved a major program of federal support for public schools, and federal aid was extended to private schools for the first time.
After graduating from secondary school, a growing number of Americans go on to higher education. The percentage of high school graduates enrolling in public colleges, for instance, has increased from 40.4 percent in 1960 to 54.3 percent in 1984. American institutions of higher education include technical training schools, which offer programs in fields ranging from hairstyling to computer programming; community colleges, which provide two years of semiprofessional training for some students and the first two years of college for others; colleges, offering four-year bachelor degree programs; and universities, which contain one or more colleges and graduate schools offering master's or doctoral degree programs. The factors determining an institution's prestige are the quality of the teaching faculty; quality of research facilities; amount of funding available; and the competence and number of applicants for admission.
Pre- reading Task | Comprehension Check | Bronze and Brass | Task 1. | Exercise 5. More about word-building: Adverbs. | Simple to give to be given | Pre- reading Task | Comprehension Check | Basic Metallurgy of Cast Iron | Exercise 4. More about word-building: Prefixes. |