Hiner's The Cry of Sodom

The Cry of Sodom Enquired Into:
Educational Analysis in
Seventeenth-Century new England


N Ray Hiner

1655 is a time frame.

Puritans understood that the Old deluder (Satan) was in NE. They built schools to create the condition most favorable for the reception of God's grace. Grace was not necessarily hereditary though. Failures did happen and the reason is complex: prosperity, politics, heterogeneous culture, mobility, and other demographic factors. Puritan had high educ standards. They were persistent and have influenced American culture.
Puritans thought they failed as found in their own words: Look into families; the new generation is careless; the rising generation is a poor, perishing, undone generation; we are losing "pillars of this generation"; the children of your bowels should everlastingly perish. It must be painful to see the possibility of their children's damnation. If things don't change, God will leave, revoke his "covenant" and Sodom will prevail, all would be lost.
Puritans considered their dreadful situation, children and religion, and evaluated their educational system: its purpose, structure, process, teachers.
Purpose: to create a regenerated man, a converted man, a man transformed by the infusion of God' mercy and grace. They developed a "test" to see if man had received the covenant of grace. Each man made a public, spiritual autobiography; traversed al the steps of conversion; aware of the omnipotence of God and His law; conscious of own depravity; salvation through Christ becomes clear; struggle to believe and perverse tendency to doubt; deep assurance of God's mercy; the regenerate man was sensitive to sin everywhere. This morphology of conversion was the "final exam." The personality went through a careful introspection and self-analysis.
Conversion from an educational point of view was a process with identifiable stages. Conversion was conceived as a process, a triumph of the"concept of preparation" in which man plays a role in his own salvation. Conversion as a process gave Puritan "hook" to fix generational crisis. In addition, create a "civil man": behavior and reputation; dutiful; respected authority; obeyed laws; accepted responsibilities as parent, provider, husband, master. Civility was not the key to salvation unless he understood the New Birth. In a regenerate man civility would follow and converting was a main design.
The child was not born regenerate, all were an imperfect being. Few educators were like the Puritans who believed educ was a way to change man in great ways reserved for children. Puritans believed God had entrusted children to them: "Take this child and nurse it for me." They asked: Have we been diligent? How can we make instruction better? They refused to be educ pessimists. They believed in the potential of their kids.
They had resolute faith in the educ process in the Christian community based on: family, church, and school.
families were the "nurseries of society." Family education was important, they were little churches while churches were expected to complement home. Church and family were symbiotically linked/related.
The church was a harmonious body, it had to serve as a good example to the children. If not they were banished a la Anne Hutchinson. They understood importance for educ of kids. The half-way covenant in 1660 was a way they could educ their kids in these unstable times. The compromise allowed them to keep the kids and to try innovative ways to regeneration. Half-way covenant was an admission of educ failure.
The school the third in the triad. Puritans supported colleges because they created ministers to give educational notions. So colleges were good because they created ministers.
Other than to outsmart Satan, schools were needed "for training in citizenship and civility." Civility found its niche in the lower schools. To avoid a barbarous progeny they needed instruction in civil manners. Read, Write, and cipher and an agreeable calling. Family had a role, but schools had a major responsibility. Thus the call was to increase support for schools where this lack of civility was to be dealt with. Since education for salvation had failed in church and family then schools were necessary for the concern of civility.
In a Christian community, everyone was a teacher by example so care of language, behavior, actions was stressed. Recognize educational responsibilities. Parents and ministers bore the heaviest burden of "teaching." Parents were constantly reminded of this in sermons and essays. If parents were weak then they would be poor teachers. Apathy of older generation influenced the next. parents concentrated on the principles and duties of Christian faith to guide them. Catechism was a key learning tool, it was an example of a linear teaching method (neg/pos feedback, proceed at own pace). Bible reading and prayer augmented catechism. Parents should be alert to discipline. They should exercise a strong but sweet authority. In addition to instruction and discipline, social environment was important. Don't forget mothers. Be careful as soon as you know you are pregnant, suckle baby. Father was primary source though.
Ministers were father's equal. Fathers made kids ready and interpreted what minister preached in sermons. They were dependent upon each other. The minister used the sermon and other tools to provide instruction to the young. Father interpreted, questioned, reinforced the minister's work. They used models from community both good and bad to instruct the kids.
Young men's associations began to crop up as a primary source to instruct youth.
By end of 17th Cent Puritans were examining system of cultural transmission. Puritan education was a conscious process. A weakness was in its reliance upon church, home, and community. If homogeneous fine, but society is not homogensous. If one of the three failed, the other two suffered. Redundancy good in strong environment. Weak chains analogy. Schools could provide literacy and elemental spiritual instruction, but not direct salvation. the reluctance of Puritans to restructure church as school resulted in difference between educ objective and pedagogy. The objective was conversion, padagogy was preparing for that conversion. However, God chose time of conversion, not ministers, parents, etc Conversion came from God, not pedagogy. Puritan education began American education.