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Horace Mann (1796-1859)
“Education is best provided in schools embracing children of all religious, social, and ethnic backgrounds”
Horace Mann dedicated his entire life to promoting and providing public education for all students regardless of their social, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. He believed in “the scientific or literary well-being of a community,” and in “having many men of competent knowledge.”
Horace Mann is a famous American educator, the father of public schools, legislator, and lawyer. His dedication to Public Schools was embedded in the idea that education is the foundation of political stability and social harmony. Mann believed that Public Schools were destined to become the most effective force of civilization. He also thought that public schooling was vital for enabling students’ equal participation, and social well-being. Another great achievement of his was the attempt to professionalize teaching by creating teacher training schools. Even though he was not the first with the idea for state-sponsored teacher training schools he was involved in the actual foundation of the schools in Massachusetts.
Mann knew that the only way to raise the quality of schools and education is through teaching. He also suggested that women should be recruited as teachers, often declaring that they would be even better teachers than men. Horace Mann is and will remain known as the creator of the system of applicable, secular, universal education in the United States.
Horace Mann was born on May 4, 1796, in Franklin, Massachusetts, and died on August 2, 1859, in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Horace Mann was the first great American promoter of public education. He believed free and universal education to be the essence of a democratic society. Mann’s education was a combination of self-education and education by rather poor teachers at the time. The Franklin town library was his learning sanctuary. He learned Latin and Greek from a Unitarian minister, and at the age of 20, he was admitted to Brown University in the sophomore class. Mann was a brilliant student, a valedictorian who showed a great interest in educational, social, and political issues. In 1819, after his graduation, he decided to pursue law as a career. He worked briefly in a lawyer’s office and taught for a year at Brown University. In 1823, he opened a law practice in Dedham, and four years later became a representative in the state House of Representatives before moving to Boston. From 1835 to 1837 he served in the Massachusetts Senate, and one of his biggest accomplishments was the establishment of the state board of education. Acting as the board’s secretary he requested moral leadership of the highest order. In 1838, Mann established the Public School Journal for teachers and taught interested citizens. He informed the public about the school problems to receive the necessary support for increasing teachers’ wages and improving their training.
He went to Europe to study educational provisions and methods and upon his arrival, he was even more determined to awaken the public in realizing the necessity of the public school system reform. In 1853, he took the presidency position at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, a school dedicated to coeducation, and equal prospects for African Americans where he worked until his death.
Mann will always be remembered for transforming the country’s public education system and establishing many teacher-training schools. To honor his legacy, many schools across the U.S. carry his name.
Horace Mann’s educational theory was influential in the promotion of the Public School system, diversity and inclusion, and technological accessibility. He envisaged collective, public education, open to everyone. Mann’s idea was to create schools where moral and ethical values were in the heart of the students and teachers. He believed that society could only move forward through an educated and disciplined workforce. Mann had the vision to encourage social revitalization, eliminate discriminatory class conflicts, and increase civic engagement. He dedicated his entire career both as an educator and a politician to the following educational principles:
- Equal quality public education for students;
- Students’ diversity and inclusion in public school systems;
- Removing biased lesson instructions from the curriculum;
- Use of a standard curriculum, for more efficient training of teachers in lessons delivery;
- A curriculum that is a vital tool for learning stability and teaching standards;
- Valuable universal, public inclusive education available for everyone regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic class, religion, capabilities, and background;
- Innovation in education (technology, creativity, going against the norm, believing in different ideas, academic transformation);
- A public education that teaches students to become good citizens and future leaders of society;
- A quality civil education that teaches students the basic principles of government, representative institutions, and civil society;
- Public schools that will teach students about their cultural heritage through subjects like literature and history;
- Schools that offer basic knowledge and skills equally to all of its students;
- Public schools that teach students how to earn a living, pay taxes, support their families, and become valuable assets in their communities;
- Public schools that promote clear values and good behavior;
- School support and improving living and working conditions.
Horace Mann believed in the theory of transmission of knowledge. He thought that teachers as knowledge transmitters represent the spine of the educational system. Therefore, he advocated for proper teachers’ training, where teachers will learn how to transfer their knowledge in a classroom setting through the application of different styles to a diverse group of children. Mann’s educational principles and theories had the same purpose, equal educational opportunities for every student out there. As a man who believed in equal opportunities, he stressed the importance of universal education for all and that no child should be left behind without a proper education. The goal of his educational theories was a successful and impartial educational system. He knew that only a solid teaching system, will create a society where all students can compete on the same level and reach complete independence through education. Mann truly understood the essence of education and a strong educational system. So, even with many obstacles along the way he succeeded in his quest and placed the foundation of a new public education for everyone.
“A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.”
Horace Mann understood the importance of teachers and their influence on students. His ideas and beliefs had a huge impact on education, in America and worldwide. Mann was renowned for his obligatory education policy, free fundamental education for all, and the establishment of teachers’ training schools also known as “normal” schools. His beliefs and theories regarding public education can be easily used in a modern educational setting:
- Teachers should teach “practical” knowledge;
- The goal of education is to foster equal playing ground for students;
- Education will release the students out of the chains of poverty and help them compete on more equal ground with the educated and the members of the upper classes;
- Students who acquire practical knowledge acquire power;
- An educated student is in charge of his/her destiny;
- Students’ abilities to read, write, and learn mathematics and science would allow them to achieve the things that seem impossible to the uneducated;
- Knowledge is a form of justice necessary in a democratic society;
- Education provides a moral compass to students;
- Intelligence, knowledge, and determination are what separate us from animals;
- Students should discover principles and relations rather than learn names and facts;
- The real significance of learning is improving oneself and society as a whole;
- We can have everything (food, clothes, and houses) but without learning, we would still be half civilized;
- The most difficult of all arts is teaching, and the deepest of all sciences;
- Female teachers often have an advantage over male teachers due to their loving and gentle nature;
- Teachers need to use different teaching techniques for every type of student;
- All subjects should have equal attention;
- Education is an equalizer of opportunity and chance;
- Only education works against the trend of domination of capital and servility of labor;
- Education should be equally distributed, and no student should be left behind;
- The reason for conflict is a lack of education;
- Education gives students independence and the means to resist selfishness;
- Only complete and universal education can stand against social differences;
Mann’s ideas were not well accepted in his time, but he was persistent and made tremendous efforts to transform the country’s public education system. He became the founder of tuition-free, state-sponsored public schools. Mann’s contribution to education created a democratic society rather than an elitist government. His struggle and determination for public schools set the structure of the free school movement for decades to come. Mann’s impact on education did not end with free schools for everyone, regardless of their background. That was merely the beginning of another educational idea for teachers and the importance of their training. His teacher training colleges provided teachers with the proper training, guidance, and techniques to face the challenges of the teaching profession. He did it all! He set the foundation of public schools and qualified teachers!