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Aztec Education and Schooling

Aztec children were raised by their parents with concern that they learned their responsibilities and basic life skills. The parents warned against gambling, theft, gossip and drink. If children did not behave, they were punished. One type of punishment was to hold them over a chili pepper fire where they had to inhale the spicy smoke.

At the age of fifteen all boys went to school which was called a telpuchcalli ("house of youth"). They learned the history and religion of the Aztecs, the art of war and fighting and civic duties of everyday citizenship. All boys were trained in war and there was great competion between the schools, which somtimes lead to fights. In addition to their schooling all boys also had to work hard on their family's land.

The boys attended either a calmecac or a cuicacalli. The cuicacalli was more of a military school. Children of the noble class attended a calmecac, a school for noble children that was connected to the temples. The children learned to live prudently, to govern, and to understand the history and ways of their elders, under very strict priestly teaching. Learning in the calmecac was essential for advancement within the royal government. Calmecac pupils also had extra religious duties, as well as lessons in history, astronomy, poetry, and writing. There the child learned the religious duties of priests and its secret knowledge; for the distinction between government and religious duties was practically non-existent. This public education was only limited to boys. Girls went to a separate calmecac school.

The Macehualtin or literally "workers" were tradespeople, peasants, and builders. children of this class went a local school, called telpochcalli. There they were taught basic occupational skills, the elements of warfare, and good citizenship. The children learned the fundamentals of their history and religion. the trade or craft specific to his calpulli or class. Some Macehualtin children who were bright were sent to a calmecac, where they would have more emphasis placed on scholarship in preparation for advanced careers.

In Aztec society, females were thought of as subordinate to men so they were mostly taught from home. They started spinning at four and cooking at twelve. The schooling of girls was a basic training for marriage, except that noble girls spent a year at the age of twelve or thirteen helping in the temples. Because of this temple training, some girls went on to become priestesses even though one of the most important religious positions, the Snake women, were held by men. There were some temples and gods that had priestesses, who had their own schools, but their real place in the hierarchy is not known. Women took little direct part in government or religious life, but did carry some influence behind the scenes.

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