Education reform

Mid 19th century

A major reform movement that won widespread support was the effort to make education available to more children. The man who led this movement was Horace Mann, "the father of American public schools." Few areas had public schools--schools paid for by taxes. Wealthy parents sent their children to private school or hired tutors at home. Their teachers had limited education and received little pay. Most children simply did not go to school. Reformers believed that education would help children escape poverty and become better citizens. In Massachusetts, Horace Mann became the state's supervisor of education. He called for radical transformations of education which would quickly take the shape of our current system. The goal was to mold individuals from all socio-economic backgrounds into good people and good citizens through education. It was believed that in doing so everyone would be able to achieve to their fullest potential. Without him, for better or for worse, the education that we take for granted today would be far different.

The first picture is a picture of Horace Mann or the Father of the Common School as some called him. He started the Common School Movement, ensuring that every child could receive a basic education funded by local taxes. The second picture is a picture of a basic 1850s classroom. Without Horace Mann or his education reform we would never have seen a picture like this.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) wrote this of [Horace Mann's] education (1859) "There were some schools so called [in Indiana], but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond 'readin', writin' and cipherin' to the rule of three....There  was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education. Of course, when I came of age I did not know much. Still, somehow, I could read, write and cipher to the rule of three, but that was all. I have not been to school since. The little advance I now have upon this store of education, I have picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity. I was raised to work, which I continued till I was twenty two."

This primary source goes to show how Mann made an effort to improve the quality/education of public school teachers. Before Mann Their teachers had limited education and received little pay. This document also shows the ideas of Mann such as teachers should be trained and that children should be required to attend school. Requiring attendance "excites ambition", the same ambition that Lincoln mentioned was lacking before Mann.

What you need to know..

Mann's commitment to the Common School sprang from his belief that political stability and social harmony depended on education: a basic level of literacy and the inculcation of common public ideals.  Mann believed that public schooling was central to good citizenship, democratic participation and societal well-being. On the frontier, 60 children might attend a part-time, one-room school. Their teachers had limited education and received little pay. Most children simply did not go to school. Reformers believed that education would help children escape poverty and become better citizens. In Massachusetts, Horace Mann became the state's supervisor of education. The citizens voted to pay taxes to build better schools, to pay teachers higher salaries and to establish special training schools for teachers. In addition, Mann lengthened the school year to 6 months and made improvements in school curriculum. By the mid-1800s, most states had accepted three basic principles of public education: that school should be free and supported by taxes, that teachers should be trained and that children should be required to attend school. By 1850, many states in the North and West used Mann's ideas. But America still did not offer education to everyone. Most high schools and colleges did not admit females. When towns did allow African Americans to attend school, most made them go to separate schools that received less money. Education for women did make some progress. In 1837, Ohio's Oberlin College became the first college to accept women, in addition to men. In 1837, Mary Lyon founded Mount Holyoke, the nation's first permanent women's college. Other reforms during this time included the introduction of kindergartens and the gymnasium. Without Mann and bus reforms, the education that we take for granted today would be far different.

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