Horace Mann-19th Century Education Reformer

Horace Mann-19th Century Education Reformer
History and Philosophy of Education (Purdue University Global)

In the 1830’s, no man had a greater effect on the welfare and development of the
American public school system than Horace Mann. His tenacity and intuition ushered in a new
era of effective public schools. Through the Common School Journal and his monthly reports on
the state of the school system, Mann prevailed in disseminating information about and
remedying the problems that plagued the system for nearly two centuries. For the astounding
advancements of public education through Mann’s efforts, he deserves admission into our
prestigious university.
Mann was called to adjust the failing education system of Massachusetts in 1837 when he
was elected secretary of the nation’s first board of education (“Horace Mann Biography”). The
system that had been in place since 1647 was decaying due to “…disastrous decentralization, a
decline in public interest, and a decrease of financial support,” (Gale “Horace Mann”). However,
the daunting task of reforming a system on the edge of disaster did not deter Mann from taking
leadership. With very little tangible authority, Mann set out to unveil the problems that plagued
the education system. His first effort was to hold educational conventions in each county of
Massachusetts where he could reveal his proposals to the citizens. Widespread dissemination of
problems within the system and potential solutions for said problems resulted, and Mann took
the first steps towards repairing the broken system. As a result of his spread of information, “…
public interest was aroused, a movement for better teaching and better-paid teachers was
instigated, school problems and statistics were brought to light and discussed, training schools
for teachers were established, and schoolhouses and equipment were immeasurably

improved,” (Ebsco “Horace Mann”). The most notable success of Mann’s efforts was his
proliferation of the teacher position. Once poorly funded and lacking in proper professionals, the
teachers of the education system became capable of educating the youth. He set up teacher
training schools, professionalized teaching, and focused on women as the new corps of teachers
(PBS “Horace Mann”). His improvement of the teacher position increased the value and quality
of education. Mann deserves admission into our institution for his remarkable advances in
dissemination of the poor public school system and for his efforts in improving the teacher
position, both of which substantially improved education.
Mann also succeeded in spreading information on the schools of Massachusetts through
the Common School Journal, a self-written and edited monthly journal that shared with the
public the state of the education system. Borrowing from the universal public school system of
Jefferson, Mann wrote in his publication of his ideas of the God-given right of education
(Woodworth). This dissemination of the status of the schools, coupled with his “…12 annual
reports, from 1837 to 1848, that thoroughly and clearly discussed school problems and possible
solutions to them,” (Hamilton). The Common School Journal was effective in multiple ways; not
only did it spread information about education, but offered innovative teaching methods in
numerous disciplines and pioneered new ideas, such as the grading of work and recess for
children (Under). His annual reports, “…statistically reflected progress and anticipated problems
statewide,” (Fredrikson). Both of these media were successful in benefiting the public school
system. Many new public schools were established and teaching methods and educational
processes advanced prolifically (Fredrikson). For his efforts and success in spreading knowledge

on the public school system and improving it, Horace Mann deserves admission into our
Finally, Mann’s greatest achievement as a reformer is his ideals and values. One of the
most resonant examples of his philosophy is present in his 12th annual education report. In it, he
states, “Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of
men…”(Mann). Mann believes that education is necessary for all people to achieve greatness
and climb the proverbial social ladder. Education is what turns a poor man into a wealthy one, a
common man into a great one. This value still lives on today, as society views education as a
means to achieve prominence and opulence. Another aspect of Mann’s philosophies on
education was his six principles. These included ideas of a public education system for all
children, free from religious influence, and taught by well-educated members of society
(“Horace Mann Biography”). Many of these ideas survive into today, specifically his nonsectarian view of education. His radical and controversial idea of an education free of religious
influence improved the value of education and is still present in today’s education. Finally,
Mann expressed his value of education for its contribution to a democratic society. According to
PBS’s biography, “Mann believed that public schooling was central to good citizenship,
democratic participation, and societal well-being,” (PBS “Horace Mann”). Mann wanted
education as a democratic force and a way to prepare children to participate in a republican,
democratic society. Democratic values are still taught in schools today, and this approach first
appeared in Horace Mann’s education system. Mann’s radical philosophies on education have
survived for nearly two centuries and still have an impact on today’s education.

Horace Mann’s actions as an education reformer for the Massachusetts public school
system show that he deserves admission into the University of the United States. He began his
efforts by holding educational conventions throughout Massachusetts and professionalizing the
teacher position. Mann also disseminated information on the public school system through his
publication, The Common School Journal and his twelve annual reports. Finally, Mann
transformed the school systems with his values of education as a societal equalizer and
democratic tool. Horace Mann started with education reform in 1837, but his efforts still
resonate loudly in education to this day.

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