Education was not always the universally accepted right that it is today in the United States. Although some communities did make education a priority, the United States was primarily an agricultural society until the twentieth century. Children might learn to work the land or be apprenticed to a tradesman after having only a few years of formal schooling. Many children had no formal education. Slave children had only as much education as their masters allowed or tolerated; most slave owners did not encourage their slaves even to learn to learn to read or write.