# 10: Who Was the First Teacher in America
On April 23, 1635, the first public school in what would become the United States was established in Boston, Massachusetts. Known as the Boston Latin School, this boys-only public secondary school was led by schoolmaster Philemon Pormont, a Puritan settler.
The Boston Latin School was strictly for college preparation. It was modeled after the Free Grammar School of Boston, England. The English school taught Latin and Greek and was centered on the humanities. Some of the Boston Latin School’s most well-known alumni include John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Benjamin Franklin was a dropout!
The Boston Latin School is still a fully functioning public school, with students enrolled in grades 7-12. However, it has changed with time, becoming coeducational in 1972 and moving locations several times. It is now in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood. Admission to Boston Latin is very competitive, and is limited to residents of the city.
According to the book written by James Otis, ‘Ruth of Boston: A Story of the Massachusetts Colony’, Philemon Pormont would inflict severe punishments to students who either misbehaved in class or failed in their studies. Here is a brief excerpt:
It was not always that Master Portman used a switch upon a child who had been foolish enough to speak with their neighbor, for he had what were called whispering sticks, which were most disagreeable to wear, and caused a great deal of pain. So said Susan; but as for myself. I w3as never forced to bear such a punishment.
These whispering sticks were stout bits of wood from the oak tree, which could not be readily broken by the teeth, and were put in the child’s mouth as you would thrust a bit into a horse’s mouth, after which the two ends were bound securely behind the neck. Thus, the unfortunate one’s jaws were stretched wide open, oftentimes for an hour or more.
The neighbor for reference is to another classmate.
(There no known pictures/paintings of Philemon Pormont, hence no photo this time.)