In common with
other nineteenth century Americans, many Utahns desired formal schooling
for their children. But desiring education and schools, is not synonymous
with actually having education and schools. Social, political, and economic
conditions can thwart aspirations and reduce educational commitment
to expressions of rhetoric. Even mandates for education that are rooted
in religious ideals are frequently modified by inescapable realities.
in the nineteenth century reflected the patchwork quilt of aspiration,
apathy, rhetoric and actual commitment which characterized much of century's
education at the national level-some communities were pockets of educational
excellence and others displayed only minimal commitment. Some parents
wanted as much formal schooling as was possible for their children;
others were hostile to book learning. There were also communities (such
as Draper and the Second Ward in Salt Lake City) that stretched themselves
economically to support schools. Much depended on local economic circumstances
and the personal commitment of local ecclesiastical leadership.
schools in the 1850s and 1860s were organized on the basis of Mormon Wards with the church meeting house serving as the school house during
the week. These ward schools differed widely in their curriculum offerings
and the quality of their teaching. They were in essence quasi-public
Mormon schools, controlled by local trustees appointed by Mormon bishops;
they reflected Mormon community values, used Mormon scriptures as supplemental
texts and supported in part by tuition from patrons and local taxes.
As early as 1851 the office of territorial superintendent of schools
was created, promoting the centralization of school policy and curriculum
at least in theory if not in practice. During the pioneer period up
to 1869, in the words of John C. Moffitt, "very little was done in Utah
for education beyond the rudiments of learning."