The History of Education in America

Directions: Answer the questions on your own paper using complete sentences.

Americans have valued education from this country's earliest days. The Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1657, passed a law requiring a community of 50 or more families to hire a schoolteacher. No less a person than Ben Franklin (1706-1790) believed the value of education was its ability to create useful members of a prosperous society. However at that time only men were targeted for formal education as women were expected to follow in their mother's role of housekeeper.

Puritans founded Harvard College in 1636, and in 1701, the Congregational Church started Yale University. The Great Awakening, a revival of religious feelings, occurred around 1739. This search for new preachers resulted in new colleges. Princeton was built in 1746, and King's or Columbia started in 1754. Dartmouth College opened in 1769. All these colleges were private, exclusive and costly. They taught classical studies, which meant the great works and deeds of the past. Public schools were still a foreign idea in America, as was the study of ideas in technology, agriculture and other applied arts.

Mann's life

The most striking thing about Horace Mann's early life was his struggle to get an education. The son a poor farmer, he attended a small, inadequately outfitted one-room schoolhouse. An traveling schoolmaster helped tutor him, but mostly he taught himself using the community library. Described as introspective and highly read, Mann used his determination and thirst for knowledge to earn a diploma from Brown University in 1819 and the title of class valedictorian. Following that, he went to law school in Connecticut and, in 1825, became a practicing attorney in Boston.

Mann was a humanitarian, and a great supporter for public education. He did this from his position as secretary of the Massachusetts state legislature. Mann knew the basis of quality education is good teachers, so he advocated for trained professional teachers in all public schools. Mann's belief in improving society also pushed him to reform mental institutions and call for the end of slavery.

In 1837, Mann was elected first secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education. What was so unusual about this man, who would eventually be known as "the father of the American common school," was he gave up a lucrative career in business to pursue a life helping others. He believed an educated person helped further society and the economy, just as Franklin had said. This logic resulted in increased funding and better pay for teachers.

Later in his life, Mann was elected as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, worked to end slavery and to build hospitals for the insane.
Mann believed popular schooling could be transformed into a powerful instrument for social unity by providing all children with a common set of values and skills. To this end, he had three objectives. First, he needed data to prove his points. Second, he wanted all textbooks to be approved. Finally, Mann sought to have Normal Schools, or teacher colleges, controlled by the states. In this way, government could control what was taught in public school, how it was taught, what resources could be used to teach, and who was allowed to teach. These issues created a mission for public education and gave a significant role to government.

1. Who was not allowed to go to school in America in the 1700's?
2. What years were Harvard and Yale founded?
3. Who founded both Harvard and Yale?
4. What subjects did the expensive private schools teach?
5. What did Horace Mann have to struggle to get?
6. What did Mann use to help learn?
7. What profession did Mann become?
8. What was Mann a great supporter of?
9. What did Mann say the basis of quality education was?
10. What did Mann call for an end to?
11. What did Horace Mann become known as?
12. How did Mann think society could be improved?
13. What did Mann want to provide for all children?
14. What do you think Mann meant when he said public education would increase the wealth of individuals, communities, the state and the country as a whole, while teaching respect for private property?
15. How does a good education promote a more egalitarian (equal) and democratic society?

What do you think Mann would feel about the following proposals? How do you feel about them?

* Allow students to drop out when they feel like it
* Pay students to stay in school
* Have students take classes at home
* Make students work their way through high school
* Force students to graduate
* Make the parents of troubled students attend school with them
* Use corporeal punishment for those who don't want to learn
* Make school easier and don't give homework