Educational Reform Movement
In the early 1800s education in American wasn't the best. Most schools were small and only went for 6 weeks because the children worked on their family farms. Other, more wealthy, children would have a tutor in their homes or they would be sent to a private school. The children that did go to school would sit in a one room building with 60 other children. The teachers also didn't have much training and has limited knowledge to teach the children. They also received very little pay. The children that didn't go to school would steal, and destroy property, and set fires. The schools children went to had little funding and taxes didn't go to the schools. There were even places that didn't have schools and the children didn't learn anything but how to work on the farm. Very few people could read and even fewer could write. The People of the Educational Reform believed that it would help those children escape poverty and become good citizens. The desire to reform and expand education pushed many of the political and social and economic party’s toward trying to reform education.
At the heart of the educational reform movement was the belief that free schooling dedicated to good citizenship and moral education would ensure the alleviation of problems facing America. The main purpose of school was to provide a more centralized and efficient school system, one that would train, and discipline the emerging working classes and prepare them for a successful life in an industrial society. Some people argue that the common school movement was a deliberate attempt by the rich to control the lower classes, force the blending of immigrants and non-Protestants, and prepare the working classes to acquire the “virtues” necessary to factory life like respect for discipline and authority.
The main champion for the Educational reform was Horace Mann. He helped bring about state sponsored public education, including a statewide curriculum and local taxes to fund the schools. The movement started in Massachusetts where Mann was a politician who served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1827 to 1833. He started a statewide curriculum and started school financing through local property taxes. During the early start of the educational reform the leaders or the teachers would enforce good behavior through physical punishment but Mann fought this against the Calvinist influence on discipline, preferring positive reinforcement to the physical punishment. Mann also started compulsory attendance for all children, longer school years and improved teacher training and, although it started only in Massachusetts, it spread to all the cities and schools. Mann’s belief was based upon a strong sense of Protestant Republicanism that was rooted in a secular, non-sectarian morality. He believed that education was a child’s “natural right,” and that moral education should be the heart of the curriculum. By the mid-1800s most states accepted all the things Mann set in place in Massachusetts.
Although most states accepted Mann's ideas America still didn't offer higher education to everyone. Most high school and colleges did admit females. When there were schools for African Americans they were different than the places of education for white Americans. The school that the African Americans went to often received less funding from the government. Some people of the reform movement focused on teaching people with disabilities. Thomas Galludet developed a method to education people who were hearing impaired and opened the Hartford School for the Deaf in Connecticut in 1817. Dr. Samuel Howe advanced the cause of those who were visually impaired by developing books with large raised letters that people with sigh impairments could "read" with their fingers. Howe was the head of the Perkins Institute, a school for the blind, in Boston.
Looking back at the educational reform movement there were some successes and some failures that created the education system we have now. The early start of the reform had some problems that were eventually fixed, but it took awhile. There were some really good ideas and some really good advances to make the education system we have now. In the end, the educational reform movement was an overall success for America.