Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award

December 1985


The purpose of this study was to write a comprehensive historical analysis of compulsory education in the United States from its inception in the colonies through 1984. The study attempts to analyze the elements of the origin, developments, and trends. The majority of the primary sources of this historical study were literary and were taken from numerous sources including United States Supreme Court decisions, congressional legislation, opinions of the Attorney Generals of the United States and various states. Some of the major conclusions derived from this study were as follows: (1) There had been numerous laws passed to put the issue of compulsory education on a national scale. (2) The courts became more involved and influential in the interpretation of compulsory education laws. (3) Wars and depressions had not had significant effect on compulsory education. (4) Compulsory education laws were used as a means of providing social, economic, and political freedom. (5) The promise of compulsory education to narrow the gap between the poor and wealthy was rarely achieved. Public education did not always afford equal opportunity. For example, per capita expenditures on public education vary from state to state and county to county. Some of the major recommendations as a result of this study included: (1) The role of the Federal government in public education should be limited. (2) Courts should act in an advisory capacity to constantly review and revise laws relative to education. The role of the courts should be watched carefully so they will not interfere with state laws. Some of the major findings as a result of this study include: (1) The desire for political freedom had been one of the leading, if not the original motivation, for compulsory education. (2) The 1954 case (Brown v. Board of Education) revealed that compulsory education must be carried out in an atmosphere of equality for all races. (3) Court decisions such as the Pierce Case which upheld dual school systems and the Brown Case which promoted the principle that separate does not mean equal upheld some aspects of the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access