On September 2, 2007, the Deseret Morning News and Salt Lake Tribune published the first of a six-part series written by the Sutherland Institute. The series examines the major forces from Utah’s historical records and cites their relevancy for today’s school vouchers debate. Part One covers the early years of pioneer settlement from 1847 to 1868.
It comes as no surprise to discover that Utah’s schools began as integrated institutions within the LDS Church, Utah’s first progressive settlers. Several sentiments were clear from the records of those early days. First, the Latter-day Saint people were encouraged by their Church leaders to gain as much education as they could. Second, schooling was essentially a private matter. Third, the community interest in educating children was limited to facilitating private efforts. Poor families leaned on their more prosperous neighbors for assistance in paying teachers for their services. Fourth, the levying of taxes was approved for the construction of school houses, but not for the payment of teachers and supplies.
During this time period, the “education identity” of Utah was distinctly religious in its motivations and orientations, private and familial in its control, and broadly supportive of educational advances throughout the community. Part Two in the series will run this Sunday, September 9, 2007, and will focus on the tumultous growth years just prior to statehood, 1869-1896.