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
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
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
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
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.