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Horace Mann: Foundations of Education Essay


Horace Mann, the father of free public schools. He saw how education was and wanted to improve and expand the opportunities for every student and teacher. Mann’s vision for improving education was to give Americans a better quality of life for years to come.

Horace Mann

Horace Mann is known as the father of the common schools. His concept for the common school stressed several principles, the biggest of them was the desire to create a foundation proficient for teaching and preparing students to build a more positive and thriving society. To achieve this desire, Mann advocated his ideas for what show education should be. First Horace Mann believed that training men and women who would be dedicated only to the profession of teaching America’s youth. Secondly, he wanted religion taught. Many of Horace Mann’s ideas concerning education were embraced by America, and to this day our school system shows that the philosophy of Horace Mann is still revered and being used. Horace Mann’s education was limited, he had no more than ten weeks of schooling a year. Mann talks about his early teachers saying, “My teachers were very good people, but they were very poor teachers…with all our senses and our faculties glowing and receptive how little were we taught”

In 1837, Mann became Secretary of Massachusetts Board of Education. In his second and twelfth annual report he states “Facts incontrovertibly show, that for a series of years previous to 1837, the school system of Massachusetts had been running down. Schoolhouses had been growing old, while new ones were rarely erected. School districts were divided, so that each part was obligated to support its schools on the moiety of a fund, the whole of which was a scanty allowance” (Downs, 1974, Chapter 4) In the Common School Journal, Mann writes “that the duty of government is see that the whole people are educated,-but that the duty has been neglected by both the general and state government” (Mann, 1852, p. 1).

The most destructive all was that the private schools were taking all the funds, the common schools of Massachusetts were weakened, they lacked supervision and the wealthy families had lost interest. Horace Mann wanted to bring school districts to a centralized authority and also to being some sort of standardization to the towns throughout the state, this was the Prussian educational system. “Schools were established, supported, and administered by a central authority: The state supervised the training of teachers, attendance was compulsory, parents were punished for withholding their children from school, and efforts were made to make curricula and instruction uniform” (Brouillette, 1999, para. 9).

Mann had to get the whole state of Massachusetts to increase the tax revenue for the common school system, if they were to build more adequate school and get well qualified teachers to teach in them. After observing broken run down schools and inadequate teachers, he went to build normal schools, these were schools or academies for training teachers. He argued that students deserved a curriculum that was stimulation and textbooks that were for different age levels (Gibbon, 2002). Today there are placement exams that teacher have to take to show that they are proficient in the areas they are hoping to teach, and states now require teacher to be evaluated to show that they are meeting the needs of the students and school. There may be training a teacher may need to take to stay up to date. Some believed that public, or free schools were only for children that were poor, but rather publicly supported schools are for all children regardless of social class, gender, religion, ethnicity, and or country of origin (“Common school movement,” n.d.).

It was not till the General Court of 1642, where it passed the compulsory education law; this is where every child in their districts should and could be educated. However, the 1642 law did not make education free, it was not till 1674 when another law was passed to change the discrepancy and would make schools compulsory and education both free and universal. Mann’s second ideas was the topics one of which is considered to be controversial today; religion in schools. “He was absolutely convinced that if children were given the proper moral and religious education, they would grow into the citizens needed to maintain and develop the democracy of the great American states” (Buck, 2002, p. 115).

Today we see this going battle still, we have parents not wanting their children to say the pledge of allegiance, religious holidays are now called seasonal parties, there is no more praying, we now have a moment of silence. He was absolutely convinced that if children were given the proper moral and religious education, they would grow into the citizens needed to maintain and develop the democracy of the great American states Today we see this going battle still, we have parents not wanting their children to say the pledge of allegiance, religious holidays are now called seasonal parties, there is no more praying, we now have a moment of silence instead.

If religion was till in schools there would be more time spent on each religion rather than on the more academic learning aspects of school. Horace Mann wanted religion taught not for the spiritual teaching but more for the moral and integration character. In the end Horace Mann’s crusade improved education, he had done just that and improved teacher salaries, he had lengthened the school year, and established new high schools. The question is, Does Horace Mann’s work still exist today? Yes, his work is still being used to this day. School districts get their funds through the raised taxes, although like in Mann’s time there is still that gap between districts where taxes are not as high as other areas causing for schools of rural areas to be less equipped with the necessities needed to learn. Teachers are more thoroughly trained with years of schooling and are tested before going into schools to teach. After each year teaches are evaluated on their performance. As for the religion in schools, Horace Mann fought for a good cause but with all the different religions it was going to be an uphill battle to keep it in the schools. He believed that if the children were taught morals and religion it would an improvement to both individual and society.


Brouillette, M. J. (1999). The 1830s and 40s: Horace Mann, the end of free-market education, and the rise of government schools. Retrieved from http://mackinac.org/2035 Buck, T. M. (2002, December 15). A leadership challenge: Horace Mann and religion in public school. Lutheran Education, 138(2), 113-123. Retrieved from http://lej.cuchicago.edu/files/2011/07/LEJ-138.2-Archive-scan1.pdf#page=33 Common school movement- Colonial and Republican schooling, changes in the antebellum era, the rise of the common school. (n.d.). Retrieved from
education.stateuniversity.com/pages/1871/Common-school-movement.html Downs, R. B. (1974). Horace Mann; champion of public schools. New York, NY: Twayne Publishers Inc. Gibbon, P. H. (2002, March 29). A hero of education. Education Week, 21(38), 33-36. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2002/05/29/38gibbon.h21.html Mann, H. (1852). The common school journal and educational reformer [Entire issue]. , IV Retrieved from http://archive.org/details/commonschooljou00manngoog

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