For 217 years—from 1620, when the Pilgrims landed, until 1837—virtually all education in America was private and Christian. (The public educational system is only 150 years old.) The basis of America lay with private and Christian education.
What was the result of over 200 years of private Christian education? Education historian Lawrence A. Cremin, who has written several books about American education, has concluded that literacy rates among American whites were as high or higher than in provincial England and significantly above those in Ireland:
“At a time when estimates of adult male literacy in England ran from 48 percent in the rural western midlands to 74 percent in the towns, on the basis of signatures on marriage registers, adult male literacy in the American colonies seems to have run from 70 percent to virtually 100 percent, on the basis of signatures on deeds and wills, militia rolls and voting registers.”
Kennedy, D.J. and Newcombe, J. (2001). What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? [ebook]. Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville. Location 892.