Horace Mann is considered to be the father of the American public school system. Mann spent his childhood on his familyís farm, where he worked hard and only received a few months of education each year. He was able to attend Brown University by studying on his own and graduated with a law degree. In 1827, Mann entered the political arena, first as a State Representative to the Massachusetts State government, and then as a Senator for the state of Massachusetts. In 1853, Mann became the president of Antioch College in Ohio, where he remained until his death. Mann took full advantage of his political situation to implement his ideals for education. His ultimate goal was to create a school system in the United States that gave free education to every person, regardless of gender or social situation. He did not, however, take any stance on education for minorities. Mann assumed that the people who would partake in the education system he advocated would be white and Protestant. Nevertheless, Mannís influence is tremendous for the Progressive reforms that would come after his death.
Mann influenced the field of education in two ways. He did so directly, by facilitating reforms in the state of Massachusetts, and also indirectly, by writing books and pamphlets advocating the same reforms. He emphasized the destructive effect of a disinterested community. Similarly, Mann tried to raise public awareness of the deplorable state of public schools in Massachusetts. To combat the lack of qualified teachers, Mann established the Normal School for Teachers. He also worked in legislature to make laws that would provide public schools with state money. This additional money allowed schools to raise teacherís salaries, buy better textbooks, and build or repair schools. Mann advocated all of these reforms in his ďAnnual ReportsĒ. In First Annual Report, for instance, Mann wrote on the importance of the public and the community in the public school system. His Fifth Annual Report was crucial in garnering support for schools through businesses.
Horace Mann was the pioneer of Progressive education reform. Although he technically lived before the Progressive Era, his dedication to the improvement of the mind, his encompassment of all classes of people, and his conciliation between government and citizens reflects the ideals of the Progressives. Mannís ideals were the precursor to Progressive reform, which would later build upon his efforts, and in many ways, take Mannís ideas even further.
Michelle Yuen 05/10/2003