Schoolchildren who bemoan the modern law requiring them to attend classes can blame the Aztecs, who developed a system of compulsory education for all of their children. But any grade-schooler who complains about getting on the bus in the morning should think about how easy he or she has it.
For Aztec children, education began in the home, with girls learning domestic chores and boys learning their fathers' trades. Youngsters were given only a small amount of food so they could learn how to squelch their appetites. Boys had to undergo the additional hardship of exposure to extreme temperatures, designed to help them develop yolteotl, a heart of stone, which was part of their warrior training [source: Reagan].
Perhaps, then, it was a relief to go off to school.
From the ages of 12 to 15, all children were required to attend a school known as a cuicacalli, or house of song, where they learned ceremonial songs and the cosmology of their people. Kids were escorted to and from this school by elders to ensure no one went truant.
For most girls, formal education ended at age 15, but from 15 to 20 years of age, the boys of commoners attended a school known as telpochcalli, where they slept at night. The study here was primarily military in nature. Sons of the nobility, however, attended a different school called calmécac, where they stayed in residence and had their military training enhanced with a study of the humanities such as architecture, math, painting and history. Priests and government officials were chosen from the calmécacs.