Quaker education has always been grounded in basic principles of the Religious Society of Friends. Each child has that of God within, and Friends’ education is centered in truth, practical learning, scientific inquiry, simplicity, and concern for civic society.
Quakers have a long history of questioning power and engaging in social action for human rights and peace. Today, many Quaker schools or Quaker affiliated institutions of higher education frame their learning environments with social or civic responsibilities and define community expectations through the lens of Friends’ values while still honoring the individual.
As the United States grew from colony to nation, the Quakers advocated for and delivered universal pubic education in Pennsylvania, built colleges, and created private Quaker secondary and elementary schools. The motto of the William Penn Charter School; “Good Instruction is Better than Riches” dates back to its founding in 1689 and still serves to describe Friends’ fundamental belief that knowledge outperforms wealth over time.
In the United States, Quakers were key to the founding of Haverford College (Pennsylvania), Guilford College (North Carolina,) Earlham College (Indiana), Swarthmore College (Pennsylvania), Johns Hopkins University (Maryland), Cornell University (New York), and the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania). All that does not mean that Quakers were perfect. As we see in the stories below, the were human and also strongly influenced by their own time and place.