St. Petersburg College
This paper discusses the influence of Horace Mann on the issue of education of the masses, evident in his dedication to improving the quality of education through the process of improving teacher education, increasing available funding, and standardizing the quality of educational experience provided to its students. It addresses specifically the areas presented in several of Mann’s Annual Reports published during his tenure including the areas of school buildings, moral values, school discipline, and the quality of teachers.
The Influence of Horace Mann on Educational Reform
Horace Mann was born in 1796 in Franklin Mass on the heels of the Enlightenment. The farm on which he was raised provided all the family needed. Horace, the youngest child, was basically home-schooled, learning farming, traditional values, and responsibility through the numerous chores required of farm life. Between his parents and his older siblings, he was taught reading, math and religious doctrine. (Kizer) When Mann later claimed to be primarily self-taught, his sister Lydia reminded him that, “Every day of your life when you were with your parents and sister, you were at school and learning that which has been the foundation of your present learning."(Tozer, Senese, and Violas 63) Eventually, Mann attended and graduated from law school and made a name for himself as a gifted speaker. He did not really enter into the academic arena until 1837 at the age of 41. At that time, he was supporting the idea that state funding earmarked for the militia be used instead to finance the state's common schools. Out of this issue was formed the state board of education, which would provide information to the local school districts. Mann took the position of secretary and served from 1837-1848. This turned out to be the turning point of the life of Horace Mann. He used this position to provide a platform for change in the system by publishing a total of twelve Annual Reports which would bring attention to areas which needed addressing within the current system. He also established a publication called the Common School Journal which was available to teachers on a semi-monthly basis, providing them with articles regarding educational topics. Mann spent the next 4 years serving in Congress, but his strong stance against slavery lost him the re-election in 1852. He accepted the position of president of Antioch College in 1853, where he served until he passed away in 1859.
School buildings in the late 1830’s were, for the most part, of sub-par construction and in need of repair. In many cases, buildings used as schools were simply deemed unfit for any other use, and therefore made available to be used for the purpose of schooling. Horace Mann made it a point to address this issue as a priority by creating positive peer pressure through the use of his Common School Journal, publicly praising schools which made improvements to their conditions, and challenging others to do the same. In addition, he developed models of the idea school environment, and encouraged schools to choose from one of the available options, again publicly lauding those who followed suit. Moral Values
One of Mann’s priorities in the establishment of the common school was that students would be indoctrinated into a system of specific core values, which would, in turn, create a society of citizens which would benefit the greater good. While these moral truths were found in the Bible, Mann received a great deal of conflict because his “common elements” were considered secularized and anti-Catholic. This was the beginning of the concept of “separation of church and state.” School Discipline
It was common practice for teachers to “beat the Devil...