William Penn Charter School - American Education
The first school founded by the Society of Friends, or Quakers, in the United States. Established in Philadelphia in 1689, the school was a response to the call of William Penn to his fellow Quakers to found schools wherever they settled. “There is scarcely any one thing,” Penn wrote in 1679, “that so much needs the wisdom of the nation in the contrivance of a new law as the education of our youth . . .” Because they refused to pay tithes and to recognize the priesthood and sacraments of the Church of England, Quakers had been perceived as unpatriotic and atheistic. The result was a wave of persecution that sent them fleeing to the American colonies in the 1660s, settling first in New Jersey. After William Penn was granted the Pennsylvania colony, some 7,000 Friends migrated into the Philadelphia area to escape persecution in other states.
Starting with the Friends’ Public School in 1689 (now the William Penn Charter School), the society established more than 40 schools in the next 70 years, giving Pennsylvania the largest school system of any American colony. Penn Charter remains one of the nation’s most prestigious primary-secondary schools, with a total enrollment of nearly 900 students attending kindergarten through high school. Although still affiliated with the Society of Friends, it offers a completely secular curriculum of arts and sciences and a college preparatory program that feeds its graduates into the nation’s finest colleges and universities.