The history of Christian education in America dates back to the 1700s with influence from Christian schools in England that were run by the Catholic church. Early settlers in America, which included the Quakers, Mennonites, Presbyterians, Catholics and Baptists educated their children in schools that were formed for the purposes of religious education. Over the years many Christian colleges, universities and private schools have emerged providing not just religious education, but also a diverse curriculum.
The Christian Influence
Early settlers in America left England seeking religious freedom among other things and after their arrival in the New World they ensured their children received a completely religious education. Consequently many children were educated through apprenticeships or by private tutors. In New England, the Puritans built a community that was governed by their Christian religion and as a result their schools were based on the Christian faith.
The Early Years
The early years of Christian Education in America laid a foundation that established educational institutions where there was a Christian worldview coupled with very high academic standards. In colonial America, education played a central role in society and biblical teaching was central to all education. The first schools in America were started by the church for the main purpose of providing Christian education.
The 1647 School Law
The 1647 School Law is based on the Old Deluder Satan Act that was passed in Massachusetts, which required the teaching, reading and writing of scriptures to children in a school setting. This formed the basis of what is today known as a public school and the main purpose was to teach children the Scriptures. The belief was that Satan wanted to keep people in ignorance of the Scriptures, so that they would remain in bondage because of the lack true knowledge. This sentiment was the driving force behind the emergence of many Christian schools, colleges and universities.
Christian Colleges and Universities
Christian colleges and universities were among the first institutions of higher education in America. Many of the early colleges and universities originally started out as seminaries to ensure that the clergy was both literate and well versed in the Scriptures. The first colleges in America were founded by Christians and approximately 106 out of the108 first colleges were Christian colleges. In fact, Harvard University, which is considered today as one of the leading universities in America and the world was founded by Christians. One of the original precepts of the then Harvard College stated that students should be instructed in knowing God and that Christ is the only foundation of all “sound knowledge and learning."
The National Union of Christian Schools
In 1920, the National Union of Christian Schools was created to promote what was called parent society schools in the Midwestern parts of the country. As a result of this by 1946, the National Association of Christian Schools (NACS) was formed and in 1974, this became the National Christian School Education Association. In 1978, this turned into the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), which is now the governing body that oversees evangelical schools in America and overseas.