During this time, education was often based on religious beliefs. The English worked to spread Protestantism in response to the Spanish and the French spreading Catholicism in other parts of North America.
The New England Colonies included Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire and are considered the most religious out of the three regions. They were "culturally and religiously homogeneous" (Kauchak & Eggen, 2017, p. 114). In addition, people were more clustered due to industry and commerce, thus paving the way for the future geographical characteristics of New England today. The Puritans, from Massachusetts, were one of the most prominent groups. Education was based on the Bible and was intended to lead people to follow God's commandments. Education was used to civilize and create "God-fearing" people (Kauchak & Eggen, 2017, p. 115).
The middle colonies included New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. These were more diverse and included religious groups such as the Dutch Reformists, Quakers, Lutherans, Baptists, Roman Catholics and Jewish. Religious freedom was a major aspect of society, and schools reflected that. Their schools studied religion in addition to native languages, local religious beliefs and the study of the Lutheran religion in German schools (Kauchak & Eggen, 2017).
The Southern Colonies included Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. Their economy was largely based on agriculture. Because of this, a formal education was reserved for the wealthy. Poor whites and slaves worked and were typically uneducated.
Despite the differences in each of the regions, each was still primarily influenced by religious doctrine. Teachers focused on teaching reading, writing, math and religion. Teachers did not have supplies and were not paid well. Only men taught at the time. It was not a pleasant time for education.
Education was greatly influenced by European education and philosophers such as John Locke or Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
The Colonial Period shaped inequality in schools, laid the foundation for public support of education and established religion as a major aspect of the education system--thus leading to the discussion of school and religion today.