Aztec Education and Schools

You might think that boy / girl stereotypes are something born in modern times. Not so. The idea that boys should grow up strong and learn to fight is an ancient one. So too is the notion that girls should learn to sew, clean, cook, and take care of the household. In fact, the Aztecs taught these ideas early and often to their children, and it continued when Aztec boys and girls went off to school for a more formal education.

Until the teenage years or so, young Aztecs were educated at home by their moms and dads. There was always plenty of work to do, and laziness was not an option.

Aztec boys began learning their roles in society just about as early as they could walk a mile or two. Like many boys today, they followed their fathers around, carrying things, helping out in the fields, and hunting and fishing. These jobs drove home the Aztec idea of what men and boys were supposed to do. Beyond that, boys learned their father's trade. Farmers' boys learned to farm, and merchants' boys learned to buy and sell.

Girls stayed home with mom and learned to keep the house. They learned to make clothes, cook, clean, and care for the younger children. Aztec girls were basically wives in training.

Regardless of social class, all Aztec kids went to school for at least awhile during their teenage years. Most went to telpochcalli or schools for the average folk.

Boys did projects around town, and got military training while at school. Boys and girls were educated in history and in the arts of song, dance, and playing music. Of course music and dance skills were mostly applied in religious practice, and in Aztec culture, religious rituals often ended in human sacrifice.

Aztec children of the higher classes went to a religious school called a calmecac. There they trained in the arts, religion, government, science, math, and reading and writing. Students attending the calmecac, particularly boys, were trained to be the next generation of priests, leaders, and warriors. Priests in training learned rituals and how to perform sacrifices. The boys that became warriors would be the ones capturing enemy soldiers to bring back and sacrifice.

Even though Aztec children did not all receive equal education, they all received some schooling beyond what was taught at home. Clearly, the ancient Aztecs valued education.