Four Landmarks in the Evolution of Public Education in America

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Four Phases in the Evolution of Public Education in America
Mark P. Lee
Grand Canyon University: EDU-576
October 25, 2011

Four Phases in the Evolution of Public Education in America
At the birth of our democratic republic prominent political leaders, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, Noah Webster, and others, recognized that educating the youth of our nation was critical for the future prosperity and security of America. These men, in their writings and oratories, strongly advocated for a publicly supported, non-secularized system of education that would be available to all American children free of charge. However, the newly ratified U.S. Constitution contained no provisions for education and, consequently, the responsibility for providing public education was given unto the individual states. Indeed, of the original thirteen states, seven states included provisions for public education in their constitutions, as would each future state, only in the South was the concept of public education resisted until after the Civil War. Over the next two centuries, public education in America would change and evolve, responding to changes both from within our own society and, increasingly in modern times, from forces that are reshaping the world. This essay shall briefly examine four distinct phases in the development of American public education and some of the individuals who made significant contributions that helped shape our modern system of public education. Horace Mann and the “Common School”

Horace Mann (1796-1859) was a self-made individual that expended tremendous effort both as a social reformer and as champion for a system of public education that would be available to all children tuition free, regardless of race or social class, non-secularized, staffed with professionally trained teachers, and supported by the local communities. Appointed as the first...
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