By: Matthew J. Franck
In the United States, the first colleges and schools were all built on religious foundations. There were no public universities in America before the University of North Carolina was chartered in 1789—the same year Georgetown, the nation’s oldest Catholic university, was created, and the same year the First Amendment was written. Modern K-12 public schooling traces its origins to the “common school movement” of the 1830s. But the common school at first imparted the religious views of an unofficial Protestant “establishment,” prompting immigrant Catholics, led by Bishop (now St.) John Neumann of Philadelphia, to found parochial schools for their children.