Total time—2 hours
(Suggested time—40 minutes. This question counts for one-third of the total essay section score)
The Antebellum period was known as a period of many reforms and social movements, one of which being the education reform movements. The Antebellum period was characterized by its numerous reforms and social movements, which included reform on education. How did education reform reflect the changing views and morals of society during the Antebellum period?
Carefully read the following six sources, including the introductory information for each source. Then synthesize information from at least three of the sources and incorporate it into a coherent, well-written essay that develops a position on the extent of the education reform on changing social views and the general status quo at the time.
Make sure that your argument is central; use the sources to illustrate and support your reasoning. Avoid merely summarizing the sources. Indicate clearly which sources you are drawing from, whether through direct quotations, paraphrase, or summary. You may cite the sources as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the descriptions in parentheses.
Source A (Church)
Source B (Winslow)
Source C (Cremin)
Source D (Judy)
Source E (cartoon)
Source F (pledge card)
In the early 19th century, movement toward public education began slowly. Most elementary schooling at the time occurred in the district school. Funded through taxation of district households, it was open to all children of the community, usually from ages three to 17. In the average school, students of all ages shared the same single classroom.
Beginning in the 1820s, Whig-affiliated educational reformers introduced one of the most successful movements of the century, the public-school program called the common school movement. Headed by leading thinkers such as Henry Barnard and Horace Mann, the movement pushed for the public education of all elementary-age white children in local schools supervised by the state and regularized under the guidance of state boards of education.
Mann, in particular, was instrumental in promoting the common school and public education. A lawyer and Massachusetts state legislator, he became the first secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education in 1837, in answer to a desire to engage in good works following his wife's death. He served in this role until 1848, working to raise statewide support for public education. He spoke throughout the state on how public education promoted an efficient workforce and a culturally and personally enriched citizenry. Through his Common School Journal, teachers gained pedagogical skills; through his annual reports, circulated nationwide, the country became interested in public education. Also through his efforts, public schoolteachers' salaries were increased substantially.
Another change begun in the antebellum years was an increase in the number of female schoolteachers. Formerly a male preserve, the growing number of schools created a need for morally upright, low-wage sources of labor in large quantity. The feminization of education was championed by educator and reformer Catharine Beecher. Founder of academies for women, she wrote works including An Essay on the Education of Female Teachers (1835), which proclaimed that the expertise of women in developing moral sensibility would make them superior teachers. She also understood that teaching was one of the few professions open to women. Together, Beecher's moral and practical arguments served their purpose and turned the teaching profession into a women's bastion by the post–Civil War years.
“At the heart of the common school movement was the belief that free common schooling dedicated to good citizenship and moral education would ensure the alleviation of problems facing the new republic. The “common school movement” was a description of a particular type of formal education, one that would become available to all citizens, developed and managed through increased governmental activity at the state level and supported by local property taxes. Common schooling was free and “universal”; that is, it was to be available to all children regardless of class (although African Americans or Irish Catholics were marginalized or excluded). The main purpose of the common school was to provide a more centralized and efficient school system, one that would assimilate, train, and discipline the emerging working classes and prepare them for a successful life in an industrial society.”
Mann and the common school movement had critics then, as well as now. The common school movement failed to address the issue of racial exclusion and segregation. Only when African American parents and their political allies challenged the whites-only schools and school districts would there be partial, but not lasting reforms. Catholics in Massachusetts and New York opposed Mann’s Protestant Republicanism in the common schools. Fearing religious and anti-immigrant discrimination, Catholics set up their own system of parochial schools. Historians such as Michael Katz have challenged the widely held assumption that the common school movement was an enlightened liberal reform movement designed to ameliorate the social divisions in American society. Rather, Katz and others argue that the common school movement was a deliberate attempt by the Protestant elite to control the lower classes, force assimilation of immigrants and non-Protestants, and prepare the working classes to acquire the “virtues” necessary to factory life—in particular, respect for discipline and authority. All of the criticisms of Mann and the common school system—racial segregation, religious (or lack thereof) bias, centralized school boards, and a curriculum designed for conformity were left unresolved, and are recurrent themes in the history of education and the subsequent movements for meaningful educational reform.
Moral education is a primal necessity of social existence. The unrestrained passions of men are not only homicidal, but suicidal; and a community without a conscience would soon extinguish itself. Even with a natural conscience, how often has evil triumphed over good! From the beginning of time, wrong has followed right, as the shadow of substance... But to all doubters, disbelievers, or disparers in human progress, it may still be said there is one experiment which has never yet been tried. It is an experiment which, even before its inception, offers the highest authority for its ultimate success. Its formula is intelligible to all; and it is as legible as though written in starry letters on an azure sky. It is expressed in these few and simple words: "Train up a child in the way he should go; and, when he is old, he will not depart from it." This declaration is positive. If the conditions are complied with, it makes no provision for a failure. Though pertaining to morals, yet, if the terms of the direction are observed, there is no more reasons to doubt the result than there would be in an optical or chemical experiment.
But this experiment has never yet been tried. Education has never yet been brought to bear with one-hundredth part of its potential force upon the natures of children, and, through them, upon the character of men and of the race. In all the attempts to reform mankind which have hitherto been made, whether by changing the frame of government, by aggravating or softening the severity of the penal code, or by substituting a government created for a God-created religion, - in all these attempts, the infantile and youthful mind, its amenability to influences, and the enduring and self-operating character of the influences it receives, has been almost wholly unrecognized. Here, then, is a new agency, whose powers are but just beginning to be understood, and whose mighty energies hitherto have been but feebly invoked; and yet, from our experience, limited and imperfect as it is, we do know that, far beyond any other earthy instrumentality, it is comprehensive and decisive...
Public or state-sponsored education was still a relatively novel concept in the United States. Though Thomas Jefferson had been a strong advocate for state funding of public education, public schools were not universally embraced as a right of the common man. The first public secondary school was established in Boston in 1821 and marked the beginning of this long and slow struggle to achieve public funding. Horace Mann (1796-1859) was the one of the strongest proponents for public education and the common school. As a lawyer, Massachusetts State senator, and the first secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, he worked continuously on behalf of the public to achieve support for public education. Many different groups such as private school owners, taxpayers, rural residents and members of the upper and wealthy classes opposed him because they felt public schools were not in their best interests Mann was actually able to improve the quality of the schools in Massachusetts. He published annual reports on the state of schools in Massachusetts and through this vehicle was able to make his views known and influence others. Mann felt strongly about the need for professional training for teachers. Prior to Mann, people with a rudimentary education could call themselves teachers if they so desired. Mann saw the need for setting standards and for teachers to be educated. The first normal school for teacher training was established in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1839. Prospective teachers were given courses in content knowledge, and pedagogy or instructional methods. In addition they were required to practice teach in a model school that was associated with the normal school. Thanks to Horace Mann, Massachusetts developed a strong system of state supported common schools which in turn became a model for the rest of the United States. In the19th century in the United States, the McGuffey reader was the most common text used in schools. Far exceeding the scope and influence of Noah Webster's spellers, McGuffey's readers sold over 120 million copies. Though not overtly religious in expression, these readers still had a moralistic overtone with an emphasis on virtuous and upright behavior. The text was designed to foster the development of good citizens.