The period of 18001865 was rather significant in the development of the modern day public school system in the USA. It was the time of reform in American education. During this time period educational reform was focused on the efforts of Horace Mann to establish a common school system that would create citizens with a common culture, helps students develop morally and socially, and ensure the assimilation of immigrants into American society. Building on the vision of the role of education in America, as proposed by individuals in postrevolutionary America such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Rush, Mann worked to establish a mandatory school system that would ensure social stability by promoting common values and beliefs.
Enduring Characteristics of American Education of 1800-1850s
Admittedly, American education system lacked consensus on an ideological and pedagogical foundation for national public education system. Special interests and political ideology contribute to this lack of a consensual foundation. According to research, an examination of the events of that period suggests that, in actuality, part of the reason there is no foundational consensus is because education does serve the public in many ways (Peterson, 2010). One of those ways being that education is a valuable, if not the most significant, tool in the creation of a public education. Because of its enculturating potential, education is a continuous battleground on which personal and collective interests compete to mold society into their ideal vision.
Horace Mann believed that public support and public control of the common school could achieve the goal of establishing a mandatory school system. In the beginning of 1800s, the middle and upper classes envisioned education as the means to forestall social interest and to create a literal society that would ensure a productive labor force. By providing free education for the children of the poor and disadvantaged, this system could promote common values, beliefs and knowledge. Horace Mann contributed a lot in American education describing new techniques and methods of American education system. Thus, asserted that as a social control mechanism, the free common school proved to be very effective and enduring. Publicly funded and locally controlled schools as the way to meet the needs of the children, improve society, and ensure social order has been a foundational concept in American education.
The Common School of Horace Mann
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Horace Mann was influenced by major European thinkers, thought that women, with their motherly instincts, would be good and caring influences on the children. It was thought that with their less violent nature, women would be better able to guide the children into young adulthood. At this time, the pattern of elementary teachers being predominantly female became entrenched in American education. The research asserts that no one played a more critical role than Horace Mann, who facilitated passage of the state law that created the Massachusetts Board of Education, for which he became the secretary in 1837 (Hazen, 2005). From that vantage point, he achieved national and international renown, winning to his side teachers and administrators who helped realize his version. Modern public schools owe their origin much more to Horace Mann than to the nations founding fathers.
Born in 1796, Mann reached political maturity when old New England was being challenged by a large influx of migrants from rural Ireland and Germany. Most of these newcomers were illiterate and did not believe in the god of Puritans. The man chosen to lead the battle against darkness was Horace Mann. Rejecting the Calvinist doctrine of original sin, he embraced the theory of Christian ethics. Mann traveled to several European countries to inspect their school systems. Ignoring the locally controlled Scottish and English systems that had been the model for colonial schools, he made careful note of the skill with which the Prussians were using public schools to unify the German people. Centralized institutions, a state-directed curriculum, statistical information, and professional cadres were being mobilized to create a unified national spirit, a common language, and an identity that would transcend parochial loyalties.
Mann efficiently asked the state Board of Education to approve books for libraries, create normal schools where future teachers could be educated, collect statistics for his reports on the states educational conditions, and ask local districts to pay for school costs. Thus, statistics revealed how many teachers were properly trained and which schools used only an acceptable curriculum. Horace Mann was the first in the United States of America who called for compulsory, secular, free schooling. The first transformation of the schools was necessarily gradual. Free, compulsory schooling of Horace Mann spread rather rapidly in rural communities. It happened fast not only because of his efforts, but also because immigrants in big cities had seen compulsory and free schooling as a way ahead for their children. Moreover, trade unions had seen it as an alternative to child labor, and local politicians had seen it as another source of patronage and perquisites. Hazen (2005) noted that Mann came into the history of American education as a founder of a mandatory school system that would ensure social stability by promoting common values, knowledge and beliefs.
Horace Mann was a leader in the drive for free and better education. Because of his efforts Mann is often called the Father of the Common School or Father of Public Education. He contributed a lot to establish a common school system that would create citizens with a common culture, helps students develop morally and socially, and ensure the assimilation of immigrants into American society.