Education of Indentured Servants

Misericordia University

Education of Indentured Servants
Indentured servants were a large part of the making of the United States. They helped increase the population, thus improving the likelihood of the survival of the colonies. Early in history indentured servants received little education, but as time continued the role of this class of society began to change. Education brought about a new era giving servants the means to become independent once their term was finished.
The Apprentice Versus the Indentured Servant
Apprentices and indentured servants have some similarities but are not entirely the same. Indentured servants often came to American previously knowing a trade such as farming but could not afford the costs of the voyage to America (Snyder). In order to make the voyage they traded years of service to wealthy plantation owner for passage to America. Apprentices however, didn’t know a trade. They became apprentices in order to learn a trade in which they could earn a living such as, metal working or carpentry. In short the difference was knowing the trade versus needing to be taught the trade.
The Appearance of Indentured Servants
As mentioned earlier indentured servants came to America from European countries. Passage to America was an expensive journey to say the least and many people couldn’t afford the cost of the journey. This is one reason why many became indentured servants. They swore their service to the person or colony that brought them over, thus making a social contract with each other. The terms of this contract for many was that after serving their term they were to be released with some tools and clothing that would help them to make a living.
Poor Education
Education wasn’t a priority during this time, in part to the need for farmers at that time. This need for farmers reduced the need for tradesman, thus reducing the need for indentured servants to receive an education. Education wasn’t a priority, however for some of the indentured servants education was in the terms of their social contract. It states in the article that “German servants often entered into indentures providing that they be taught to read the Bible in English”(Snyder). In the Chesapeake Bay colonies education was largely decided by the wealthy and powerful. If you were a servant or slave, education was not available to you. As the need for indentured servants dwindled away due to the slaves being imported from Africa, the world of apprentices emerged out of necessity for more tradesman.
Apprentices and Education
Apprentices were born from the need for tradesman and because the number of children born in America increased. Parents from the colonies wanted the same for their children that the parents of today want, and that is to have a better life than that of their parents. Many parents sent their children to masters to learn trades such as blacksmithing and carpentry in exchange for a predetermined amount of money. Over time it became the masters’ duty to provide an education beyond that of their particular trade. This education mainly happened during the off season of their particular trade. This is the events that are believed to have given birth to the public school system.
Evaluation and Opinion
The article “The Education of Indentured Servants in Colonial America” written by Mark R. Snyder was an informative article. I personally found the article very interesting and intriguing. The author gave clear definition of what an apprentice is in comparison to an indentured servant, while showing how one slowly became the other as history continued. The author showed clearly how the indentured servant slowly slipped away when slave trade with Africa increased. He explained because of this that the apprentice emerged and began to creep into a trade school, which then turned into what the author believes is the public school system. I appreciated the form in which the article was written and how the overall concept of education among indentured servants was broken down into the steps that created the whole historical story. I would love to read more articles from this author and expand on his view of other topics.

Snyder, M. (2007). The Education of Indentured Servants in Colonial America. The Journal of Technology Studies, 33(Spring 2007). Retrieved September 1, 2015, from