Horace Mann biography

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La Tonia Winston

ES 9750: Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education
Horace Mann

  • May 4, 1796 – August 2, 1859

  • Graduate of Brown University

    • Trained as a lawyer

  • Encouraged the establishment of libraries

  • U.S. American politician

    • Elected to Congress in 1849

  • In 1837, he was appointed Secretary of State of the Board of Education of Massachusetts
    (the first position of its kind in the United States)

  • In 1852, he became the president of Antioch College at Yellow Springs, Ohio

  • Helped to popularize Pestalozzian education

  • Reared as a Calvinist, later he became a Unitarian

  • Influenced by Emersonian transcendentalism

  • Proponent of phrenology- belief that mental faculties had seats in the surface of the brain that when size examined one could determine a person’s capabilities and personality

  • Social reformer in the Temperance Movement and Educational reformer

  • Proponent of universal public education


  • Known as the “Father of the Common School Movement” and the “Father of American

  • In 1838, he founded and edited the biweekly publication, The Common School Journal. In it he established six principles:1) The public should no longer remain ignorant, 2) Education should be paid for, controlled, and sustained by an interested public, 3) Embrace children from various backgrounds, 4) Education must be non-sectarian, 5) Education taught by the spirit, methods, and disciplines of free society, and 6) Education provided by well trained teachers

  • Common School Movement – a progressive movement in public education that began in the 1830s

    • “The word ‘common’ expressed the concept of a community institution based on shared ideas, experiences, beliefs, aspirations, and values.” (Gutek 1995, 456)

    • Objectives of Common Schools (Chapter Section titles in Jeynes, 2007)

      • Schools Would Promote the Common Good

      • Common Schools Would Level the Playing Field Between Rich and Poor Students

      • Common Schools Would Promote Moral Education

      • Common Schools Would Help Ensure Quality Teaching

      • Common Schools Would Unite the Country by Teaching Common Values

  • Committed to teacher education through normal school teacher education– “a movement devoted to creating a more equitable public school system characterized by quality teachers and a nonsectarian approach.” (study.com/academy/lesson/horace-mann)

    • Early curriculum in MA for teacher education included: reading, writing, grammar, arithmetic, geography spelling, composition, vocal music, drawing, physiology, algebra, philosophy, methodology, and scriptural reading

  • Viewed education as for social reform (Ozmon 2011)

  • Believed people could use their reason toward perfection (Gutek 1995, Jeynes 2007)

  • Saw education as the redemptive force to regenerate society and make most crimes obsolete

  • Influenced by the Enlightenment, he possessed an “optimistic view of human nature” and believed in human rationality (Gutek 1995, 160)

  • He held that “schooling would improve each individual to the point that the whole society would be reformed” (Gutek 1995, 198)

  • Advocate for “common schools” that would:

    • Teach “Common Christianity,” – non-denominational, Protestant, Christian morality

    • Function as agencies for creating personal and social morality

    • Contribute to civic awareness

    • Stimulate a sense of political responsibility

    • Train responsible citizens for public service (all classes, genders, and ethnicities)

    • Function as state supported, publically controlled—governed by school boards, responsible to communities, and open to all

    • “Assimilate immigrants and foreign language groups into a unified American nation” (Gutek 1995, 459)

    • Non-sectarian approach (Knight 2006)

  • “Mann’s conception of popular education was like that of European liberals. It was to be an institution that would emphasize respect for property, contribute to mobility, and cultivate a sense of law and order”. (Gutek 1995, 459)

  • Ascribed to the stewardship theory of property – held that wealthy businessmen, including industrialist who had a responsibility as stewards or guardians to support legalization of common schools


Gutek, Gerald. 1995. A History of the Western Educational Experience 2nd ed. Long Grove,

IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

William H. Jeynes. 2007. Chapter 6: The Widespread Growth of the Common School and

Higher Education: Horace Mann and the Rise of the Common School in American
Educational History: School, Society, and the Common Good
. Sage Publishing.

Kienel, Paul A. A history of Christian school education. Vol. 1. 2005. Colorado Springs, CO:

Purposeful Design Publications.

Knight, George. 2006. Philosophy and Education: An Introduction in Christian Perspective

4th ed. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.

Ozmon, Howard, and Sam Craver. 2011. Philosophical Foundations of Education 9th ed.

Boston, MA: Pearson.

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