Revisiting History: Horace Mann

One of the biggest complaints I hear from peers are the inconvenient hours of school. Another is the attendance policies. However, I rarely hear anyone questioning why we have the school schedules that have been implemented, nor why we are only allowed to be excused from absence five times per quarter. These things can be attributed to Horace Mann. It is ignorant to blame him for his education reforms: they were meant to help us and give us the opportunities that he was not given as a child.

Who Was Horace Mann?

The man who reformed America’s education system. (photo by jaycross)

Horace Mann is referred to as the Father of the Common School, as according to PBS. He was a lawmaker, and used his powers in authority to reform the education system of the nineteenth century. He believed in society flourishing because of emphasis on educational matters.

Education-wise, Horace Mann completed erratic hours of school as well as very few hours (ten to fifteen) per week, as he grew up in a farming society. To educate himself, he would read volumes from a library. This self-learning may have spiked his interests in defending public education, as well as allowed him to enter Brown University to become a lawmaker.

What Did He Instill in Our Schools?

According to biography.com, as well as answers.com, these were the six main principles to his reform:

  1. “Citizens can not maintain both ignorance and freedom.”
  2. “This education should be paid for, controlled, and maintained by the public.”
  3. “This education should be provided in schools that embrace children from varying backgrounds.”
  4. “This education must be nonsectarian.”
  5. “This education must be taught using tenets of a free society.”
  6. “This education must be provided by well-trained, professional teachers.”

In common terms, education reform will prove to be greater than any other reform in creating a better society. His goals were to strive for equal opportunity in learning, regardless of whether you grew up on the farm or in the city. Though many people did not agree with his reforms, they are still in place today. Teachers need to be professionals, school hours must be fixed instead of varying, and students must be given the equal opportunity for their educations.

What Horace Mann realized is that though he was able to self-teach and understood that education was one of the most important things in life, others would not have the same drive, and society would flounder because of that. He shows the type of drive that our society should have more of to succeed and flourish.

With all information given, we must appreciate what Horace Mann has done for the public education system. Without, we can not be sure that society would have the privileges it does today: Advanced Placement courses, Dual Enrollment, eight hour school days, or a limitation on the number of days you can be absent per quarter/semester. Students may take these things for granted, or even detest them, but they may give one a head start on furthering their education, as well as preparing one for the workforce. They offer what many did not have in the past.

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