Horace Mann is one of the most well-known reformers of education in the United States. He is often credited with leading the Common School Movement, which helped to lay the framework for a publicly funded education system. In this lesson, we will take a look at some of his major contributions to the field of education as well as some of his philosophical viewpoints.
Horace Mann: The Contributions of a Reformer
The contributions of the education system reformer Horace Mann, who lived from 1796-1859, have had a lasting effect on education in the United States.
Mann was born in Franklin, Massachusetts, on May 4, 1796, to a poor farming family. It was this impoverished background that would serve as a framework for Mann’s work. It would be his own experiences during his upbringing that would fuel his dedication to improving public education.Mann was educated in a one-room schoolhouse that was often in need of repair. Schooling in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was often irregularly managed. Mann, however, was a determined individual and focused to teach himself the content and skills needed to pursue higher education. Through hard work, he was able to attend Brown University, where he entered as a sophomore at age 20.
While at Brown, Mann studied law and expanded his interest in social reform. Mann would practice law until his election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1827. He would serve in the House of Representatives until 1833. In 1835, he joined the Massachusetts Senate and served until 1837.
Horace Mann’s Impact on Education
As a social reformer, he was influential in the promotion of the temperance movement, which was aimed at prohibiting the use of alcoholic beverages. He also worked to help establish a state insane asylum. While the idea of an insane asylum may seem offensive by today’s standards, this was a progressive approach to improving mental health in the 19th century.It was the combination of both Mann’s personal and professional experiences that influenced his approach to the area in which he had the most profound contribution – education. Mann’s dissatisfaction with public education began with his own schooling as a child.
By 1837, public education in Massachusetts was still no better than it was during Mann’s childhood.The state decided to act. In 1837, the first-ever Massachusetts state board of education was formed and Mann was chosen secretary.
This would be the beginning of a progressive movement in public education often referred to as the Common School Movement. This movement began in the 1830s, as social reformers pushed for a better-developed, tax-funded, secular public school system.Mann knew that in order to see public education flourish, he would have to improve the training of teachers as well as provide an avenue for the sharing of information. In 1838, Mann founded a biweekly journal entitled Common School Journal. This was a progressive step towards reshaping the way public education was perceived not only in Massachusetts but across the country.Mann also spearheaded the development of teacher training institutes across Massachusetts.
In 1838, Mann helped to establish Normal Schools in Massachusetts. These schools were aimed at preparing teachers by establishing pedagogical norms and standards. Mann believed that better teachers would result in improvements in student learning.
In essence, Mann’s contributions were all aimed at improving the well-being of the citizenry by providing a tax-funded, high-quality public education.
The Philosophy of Horace Mann
Horace Mann’s educational philosophy is one that is popular today, but it was not always popular during Mann’s era. While Mann’s views are not simplistic in nature, they are often summarized in six major principles. These principles are:
- It is impossible for someone to be ignorant and free.
- The public should pay for, maintain, and control public education.
- Education should be inclusive, not just for the wealthy.
- Education must be nonsectarian. In other words, education should not be linked to a particular group, whether religious or political.
- Education should be based on the democratic ideals of a free society.
- Teachers must be well-trained professionals.
Mann believed that in order to promote democratic ideals, a quality education was necessary. Essentially, Mann’s philosophy was one that placed education as the bedrock on which all other societal advances must stand.
Many of his philosophical standpoints were considered progressive for his time. His inclusive approach to education was not met with positive support from everyone. There were many who disagreed with Mann’s philosophy, particularly many religious leaders and individuals who believed that a religious-based education was most appropriate.Overall, however, Mann’s philosophy would stand the test of time. Many educators today align themselves with Horace Mann.
His vision was one that included a tax-supported, non-religious, public education. While public education is in a state of constant evolution, the contributions and the philosophy of Horace Mann are still considered relevant today.
Horace Mann was an American reformer of education who lived from 1796-1859. He is often called the ‘Father of the Common School Movement,’ which was a movement devoted to creating a more equitable public school system characterized by quality teachers and a nonsectarian approach. Essentially self-taught as a child, Mann became a Brown-trained lawyer and politician who took charge in reforming American public education. His six educational principles focus on the creation of an inclusive, tax-funded, nonsectarian education system characterized by quality and well-trained teachers.
Horace Mann’s ideals were progressive for his day, and they have stood the test of time as they continue to influence educators today.
Mann’s Influence on the Public Education System
Horace Mann’s approach to education included:
- Equitable public schools
- Professional teachers that followed standardized teaching norms
- Tax-supported, non-religious public education
- Education for all citizens, not just the wealthy
After you are finished, you should be able to:
- Summarize Horace Mann’s background
- State some of the ways that Mann influenced the public education system in the 1800s
- List Mann’s six philosophical principles regarding education