From the Thomas opinion:
By the time the States ratified the Fourteenth Amendment , public schools had become relatively common. W. Reese, America’s Public Schools: From the Common School to “No Child Left Behind” 11–12 (2005) (hereinafter Reese)....Any comments on that idea for public schools? Note the distinction between: 1. preferring that model for the schools, and 2. accepting it as something that is constitutionally permissible. You can believe #2, without going for #1. You can also reject both #1 & #2, or accept both. You could also believe #1, but not #2, but I will have to disapprove of you if you don't concede that you must forgo your preference.
Because public schools were initially created as substitutes for private schools, when States developed public education systems in the early 1800’s, no one doubted the government’s ability to educate and discipline children as private schools did. Like their private counterparts, early public schools were not places for freewheeling debates or exploration of competing ideas. Rather, teachers instilled “a core of common values” in students and taught them self-control. Reese 23; A. Potter & G. Emerson, The School and the Schoolmaster: A Manual 125 (1843) (“By its discipline it contributes, insensibly, to generate a spirit of subordination to lawful authority, a power of self-control, and a habit of postponing present indulgence to a greater future good …”); D. Parkerson & J. Parkerson, The Emergence of the Common School in the U. S. Countryside 6 (1998) (hereinafter Parkerson) (noting that early education activists, such as Benjamin Rush, believed public schools “help[ed] control the innate selfishness of the individual”).
Teachers instilled these values not only by presenting ideas but also through strict discipline. Butts 274–275. Schools punished students for behavior the school considered disrespectful or wrong. Parkerson 65 (noting that children were punished for idleness, talking, profanity, and slovenliness). Rules of etiquette were enforced, and courteous behavior was demanded. Reese 40. To meet their educational objectives, schools required absolute obedience. C. Northend, The Teacher’s Assistant or Hints and Methods in School Discipline and Instruction 44, 52 (1865) (“I consider a school judiciously governed, where order prevails; where the strictest sense of propriety is manifested by the pupils towards the teacher, and towards each other . . .” (internal quotation marks omitted)).2
In short, in the earliest public schools, teachers taught, and students listened. Teachers commanded, and students obeyed. Teachers did not rely solely on the power of ideas to persuade; they relied on discipline to maintain order.
ADDED: Thanks to my colleague, Karl Shoemaker, who pointed out the references to Reese. Regular readers remember Shoemaker as the historian who sent me this photo of ancient marginalia (and gave me the chance to write my favorite rhyming blog post title: