chapter  Chapter 2
22 Pages

Compulsory Attendance and Special Exemptions

Formalizing the Rules of Access
WithJohn G. Richardson

This chapter examines the coordination of the tutelary complexes into formal systems of common schooling by way of the passage of compulsory attendance legislation. The case of Massachusetts provides documentary evidence that resolves the empirical mismatch between school enrollment and compulsory attendance. Enactment of compulsory attendance was itself a series of acts and amendments to acts. The documentary evidence that relates enrollment to compulsory attendance is an “internal sequence” of a discourse that grew progressively conscious of authority jurisdictions and of the purposes charged to institutions. Levels of voluntary school enrollment have always been high from the colonial era forward, a fact that has much to do with the comparatively late implementation of compulsory attendance. The “procedural career” of truancy underscores how the formalization of common schooling was less the concern of compelling attendance and more the concern of controlling admission.