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Horace Mann, the Man Who Invented the School: Essay

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Education in the United States of America has improved undoubtedly throughout the decades, and Horace Mann, an educational reformer, is to thank for that. Horace Mann was an individual of principle and believed that everyone deserves the right to a fair education. Mann fought for the education of all his fellow Americans and for the quality of that education that they were receiving. His ethical beliefs, shaped by his upbringing, formed the educational movement that created our school systems today. Through research and reading of many biographies about Horace Mann, it is clear that he was the most influential educational reformer of his time. His beliefs regarding the right of all Americans to education, as well as his views regarding the unnecessary inclusion of religion in school systems, shaped modern education as it is known today.

Horace Mann came from an impoverished background and learned to become independent and self-sufficient from an early age. Mann’s education was not the primary focus of his childhood, but he still loved to learn. This love of learning grew into a desire when he was an adult to create a better educational system for the common American. He ended up practicing as a lawyer and later went into politics, joining the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1827. Mann eventually then joined the Massachusetts Senate in 1833, putting him in a position to further his ideas of educational reform.

Horace’s participation in politics led to change around the country. After joining the Massachusetts Senate, Mann supported several reforms, including outlawing slavery, dedicating hospitals to the insane, and securing the passage of an education bill creating the Massachusetts State Board of Education. Mann also volunteered to be the leader of the State Board of Education for 11 years. His reforms may seem beneficial today, but back then were viewed as controversial. For supporting these reforms, Horace suffered a great deal of backlash and negative attention. This, however, did not deter him from his goal, and he continued to fight for a better education for all.

Mann desired to spread the message of quality secular education and was determined to find an outlet to convey his ideas. He held annual education conventions to showcase its importance. He also had a semi-monthly magazine published to explore all the problems within public schools. Mann’s conventions were actually quite successful and kept the public interested. Horace Mann successfully spread his pioneering educational reforms using many different strategies, thereby gaining the support needed to implement his ideas in schools.

Mann believed teaching standards in the United States were not up to par, and he wanted to ensure teachers were properly equipped to mold young children’s minds. To do this he advocated for the formation of training schools for teachers, called ‘normal schools’. He obtained funding from wealthy patrons and that, along with additional money from the state, led to the creation of these schools. Horace’s desire to ensure that teachers were properly trained undoubtedly led to more effective educators.

Teachers were severely underpaid, which Horace believed contributed to poor teaching standards. To try and better the lives of teachers, and therefore create better educators, Mann sought funding to increase teachers’ salaries. During his time in the Senate, funding for public schools more than doubled. This led to better and more healthy teachers. Horace Mann’s successful attempts to increase teachers’ salaries retained existing teachers and attracted new ones.

Student attendance in public schools was very low due to the fact that few people valued education. Instead, these people would work in shops and on farms to make money for their families. Horace Mann understood that a good education was a pathway to success, and he implemented minimum attendance requirements in the school systems. Accordingly, school attendance was increased to 6 months minimum per student. This allowed teachers to have more time with their students and helped educators impart a wider variety of information. Mann’s change in attendance requirements led to better-educated students.

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Mann wanted schools to value not only academics but also molding children’s minds, as well as stopping strife between social classes. He believed that if all citizens had the same opportunities, then there would be less infighting among the classes. Horace endeavored to show these benefits to both the rich and the poor, to bring these groups together. Mann believed that schools should be required to make not only good students but also good and moral citizens. His policies shaped not only the education of students but their character as well.

Mann traveled extensively and sought out other methods of educational improvement. He traveled to Germany to view their school systems and attempted to implement some of the German ways of education. Unfortunately, Massachusetts teachers took offense to his reports on how they should change their teaching style, leading to the failure of this project. Horace Mann had a few large projects that failed during his hunt for better education for Americans, but this was one of them. Even though he failed, his efforts show how dedicated he was to educational reform.

Mann wanted to ensure that society wasn’t built off of an uneducated populace. He believed that without proper education, the working men of the country would be worse off. Considering that the majority of the population consisted of the working class, the lack of education meant the voting adults of the country were uninformed. Mann’s insistence on having an informed population helped ensure that the people voting in each state knew what they were voting for. As he put it, “Education… is a great equalizer of the conditions of men – the balance wheel of the social machinery”. Mann also stressed that people needed to have their education to be more intelligent and moral, so if the government ended up switching to a republic, they would make the smart, moral choice.

Mann created a statewide campaign to show people the importance of education. This campaign was to establish common schools which were Mann’s new and improved schools. These schools were basically free secular public schools with a required level of academic standards. Each state had oversight of its schools. These schools were one of Horace Mann’s biggest achievements.

Mann also promoted the benefits of female teachers and wanted schools to start hiring more women. He complimented women on their high moral character and nurturing ability. He stated it was also a way for women to bring in more money for their household. Mann’s promotion of more women in the workplace helped diversify the school workforce.

Horace was discouraged by the wealthy but continued to fight for educational reforms anyway. The wealthy wanted Mann to use his position to help them, but he chose to help everyone instead. When he started his reforms in Boston, there was a large uptick in Irish immigrants making his job harder, but her persevered. The large number of immigrants led to him having to try and educate more people who were just there for manual labor. The education of the immigrant population was just as important to Mann as anyone else’s education.

Horace wanted the focus of schools to be on education and morals without a specific religion. Mann was insistent on not making religious studies mandatory in school, a position which was frowned upon. He was labeled anti-religious for his stance on secular schools. Without religion in school, people were afraid that Horace Mann may have been corrupting the young. This, however, did not lead to anything significant standing in his way of reform.

Horace Mann wanted every American to have the best education available to them. Mann’s morals and upbringing are what led to his ethical beliefs about education. He believed that a good education was necessary for every American and that religion need not be included in the educational experience. Through research and reading of many biographies about Horace Mann, it is clear that he was the most influential educational reformer of his time. His beliefs regarding the right of all Americans to education, as well as the necessary inclusion of religion in school systems, shaped modern education as it is known today. Horace Mann’s education reform movement fundamentally changed the landscape of education, and its effects are still felt today.

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