The invention of the modern-day school system is often credited to Horace Mann. Horace Mann, born on May 4, 1796, and died on August 2, 1859, was an American educator and a Whig politician known for promoting public education. In this article, we will discuss who invented School?
Who invented School?
Horace Mann invented school and is often regarded as the “Father of the Common School movement.” He set forth his vision for common public education, a system where professional teachers would teach students within an organization following an organized and systematic curriculum of basic content when he became the Secretary of Education in Massachusetts in 1837.
An educational institution designed for students to provide learning spaces and learning environments under the guidance of the teachers is called a ‘School.’ The word ‘School’ has been derived from the Greek word ‘Schole’ meaning ‘leisure’ or ‘that in which leisure was employed’ which later on changed to a group to whom lectures were given.’
The concept of the school has always existed since the times of Ancient Greece and ancient Rome. The Concept of school also existed in Ancient India and China. In contrast, traces of the school’s origin in Europe dates back to 597 CE, i.e., establishing the King’s Scool and the Canterbury School. According to ‘Traditions and Encounters,’ a textbook by Jerry H. Bentley, the primary education system began around 425 AD, and the military personnel at least had a minimum of primary education. While the schools’ invention dates back to around 500 CE and 400 Ad in Ancient Greece (Academy), India (Gurukuls), and Europe, the invention or development of schools in the U.S only dates back to the 17th Century. School in the United States began originally began in the 13 colonies that the Whites set up. Another community that contributed to schools’ development was the Islamic community because they always had an institution called the Madrasah where they taught the students about religion. This might have been added to the cause of the schools’ invention as they are now.
Although the School’s concept had always existed, the schools in ancient times were a lot different from what and how they are today. The school in ancient ages had one-roomed schoolhouses, and they also focused on teaching various skills and religious values and did not focus on scientific knowledge. It is only the recent years that importance is given to scientific knowledge and the teaching of skills and religious values. Also, today’s schools focus on teaching scientific knowledge and impart knowledge based on various subjects like Mathematics, Languages, History, Geography, Political Sciences, and many more.
School is an institution where the child gains knowledge, but the child gains that experience only when he/she goes through a series of different schools. Like, he/she goes to preschool, kindergarten, then Elementary school, followed by middle school and high school. And later on, if the student wishes for higher education, he/she goes to a university or university college, where they can gain various degrees such as Post Graduation/Maters or Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.). The first college in the world was the University of Bologne or Bologna in Italy, which was established in the year 1088 is stated to be the oldest and the longest-running university in the world. It started with the students hiring a group of tutors for themselves. The students superintended the teachers by using money against them, which is similar to today’s situation. Still, as the teachers were exploited in the students’ hands, the teachers formed an association of their own as time passed, got their own rights, and set up various degree plans and exams. So, even though the students paid the teacher’s wages, they couldn’t control them as they pleased, and everybody was under supervision, which might affect their degree in the end. And along with the University of Bologne, more ancient universities are still working, like the University of Cambridge established in 1209 and many such universities.
Now that it is clear about who invented school and where was the origin of school and how the schooling and the focus on different subjects changed over time, it is also important to know the journey of the invention of modern education, the principles of modern education along with what is a standard education and many more.
The Journey of the establishment of Modern Education began when Thomas Mann was appointed as the Secretary of the state education board of Massasuchettes. He went and inspected every school to see what they lack and later came up with a plan of developing public schools and the ideology that public education was vital to developing and cultivating America’s citizens and other nations. During his tenure as a Secretary of the state, the education board established many public schools and reformed the existing ones. He also had made a Europe tour to understand their education system and the most important aspect of their education or schooling system. And he also wrote a journal regarding the same in the year 1838 so that the teachers could understand the system better and be on the same page.
And because Mann is considered as the father of the Modern School he came up with six principles for the modern education system and they were:
- According to him, citizens can’t be both free and ignorant, meaning they can either be free minded where they accept everything with open minds and are well aware of their surrounding and rights, either they can be ignorant and not know anything. But they can’t be both free and ignorant at the same time.
- Education can not totally be free. Instead, the public needs to pay for the education, the schools’ maintenance, and the education board’s control.
- Education should be equal for everyone, meaning the standard of schooling should be the same for all the students. They should not be categorized based on their class, gender, race, ethnicity, etc.
- Education should also shift from religion to science and other subjects, i.e., education should be non-secular = non-religious.
- Education should follow the principles of a free society. A society that believes in the open mindset of its citizens and community looks forward to developing themselves.
- And the last but most important point of all, the facilitators of education, that is, the teachers should be professionally trained so that equal and qualitative education is being delivered to the student.
Along with these six important principles of modern schooling, Thomas Mann also differentiated classes based on age, thus establishing the grading system that is used in schools nowadays. Though schools’ systems started in the 17th Century in America, the surge in education’s importance came only after the American revolution. All the states began to establish their own public schools and the school system differed from state to state. After Horace Mann, in 1873, he put forth his vision for an education system where professional teachers would teach the students together in an institution. Many states quickly followed his lead and established schools just like he had done in Massacuchettes. And over the years, the importance of education increased schooling was mandatory in many like the Aztecs (an ethnic group from central Mexico) made education compulsory in the year 1400 followed by different German settlements in the late 1500s, followed by Scotland who not only made schooling mandatory but it also made education free for all in the year 1616. Then in the year, 1642 Masasuchettes made schooling compulsory, followed by Prussia in 1763, the United Kingdom in 1870, followed by Japan in 1868, which made schooling compulsory.
The idea of passing knowledge from one person to another or one generation to the other had always existed, right from when the humans first lived on earth. Still, during that time, it was done on one basis, but later on, as time passed, people started gathering a group of children together and then passed on the knowledge together as this method saved the time and efforts of the elders. And the traces of formal schooling can be as early as 500 Ad in ancient Greece, Rome, and even some parts of Ancient Egypt. Alexandria in Egypt was the home to Alexandria’s library, and literacy became an important focus for many civilizations.
Though, like mentioned earlier that it was very late when the emergence of science in education could be detected, it was only during the Renaissance period Science was brought into focus as an important aspect of education. And the Middle Ages has seen an upsurge in the importance of Mathematics in education. And as time passed, many more subjects were introduced in education like various languages, vocational skills, corporate training, business training, military training, etc. Though these were not the subjects for elementary or middle and high schools, these education areas are explored during higher education.
And once people understood the importance of education and schooling was made compulsory for all the kids, the attention or focus was shifted on making it a part of the standardized education system meaning the education system in America or anywhere in the world is similar to one another. Around the 19th Century, standardized tests were created that tested the students’ intelligence and retained capacity, and many more. During this time, tests like IQ tests (by Alfred Binet), college entrance tests were invented to test students’ intelligence and potential to enter a college or university. Thus, standardizing the education.
Thomas Mann, the father of modern education, said, “Education then, behind all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of the men, the balance wheel of the social machinery,” meaning Mann believed that it is highly impossible to create a society full of opportunities without education. When there aren’t enough opportunities, the world will become a place of inequalities, and thus, to have a stable and equal society, the most important weapon is education. Not only that, but Mann also wanted every man to compete in the economy, thus coming up with an equal and strict schooling system where basic literacy, arithmetics, and general knowledge about the world are focused on in more detail.
The history of education in America: The trend of education started in America during the 17th Century when schools were set up in the thirteen American colonies. And Boston Latin School, which was established in the year 1635, is considered the oldest and one of the first public schools in America. And the first public school in North America was the Mather School, founded in 1639 in Dorchester, Masasuchettes.
And like everyone knows, earlier girls weren’t given a chance to gain knowledge through education and pursue their careers outside the home. Still, the earliest school for girls was the one that was established in New Orleans, the Catholic Ursuline Academy founded by the Sisters of the Orders of St. Ursula in the year 1727. Ursuline Academy was the first of its kind that provided free education for all women, whether it was a woman of color, a native American, or even African American Slaves. And in this region, they also provided a social welfare center for women, which was again the first of its kind and marked the foundation of the first-ever girl’s hostel in Louisiana, America. Along with this, a music school was also founded in New Orleans, marking the beginning of studies not related to daily life but about which one is very passionate and wants to pursue it as their career.
Once the schools were set up, then came the challenge of producing textbooks for the students, which would enhance their learning capacities. In the early 17th Century, colonists imported textbooks from England. Still, by the late 17th Century, Boston publishers were reprinting the ‘English Protestant Tutor’ (most probably the book that they imported from England) under the title, ‘The New England Primer.’ And The New England Primer was based on rote memorization, meaning not giving the students a chance to explore the various skills required while learning. And by the start of the 18th Century, Noah Webster’s ‘Blue-backed speller’ was the most common one. Webster’s Blue-backed Speller became the pedagogical blueprint for all the textbooks available in America. The book was arranged and created so that the students could be taught quickly, and the text and its content progressed with age.
And even though the tradition of higher education had started as early as the 1800s, it was largely oriented towards training men as ministers. In contrast, Lawyers and Doctors were trained based on apprentice programs rather than degree programs. For example, the ‘Yale’ college was founded by the Puritans in the year 1701, which was later relocated in 1716 to train ministers who would spread the message of Puritan worship worldwide. And after the revolution, there was a rise in the importance of education all over America, and there was an increase in the establishment of public schools in Northern America.
Although there was constant progress in education development starting from ancient times to the middle ages, the revolution era has been incredible. However, the educational system that existed was not perfect, and it was brought on to the path of perfection none other than Horace Mann. Earlier, one-roomed schools were prevalent, meaning all students of various ages gathered together in one room where the teacher taught them using the monitorial system was very famous or prevalent during the early 19th Century. But this very prevalent schooling method changed when Horace Mann became the Secretary of the state education board in the year 1837 and brought some reforms to the existing schooling system. He worked hard to build a state-wise professional team of teachers and divide them into different grades based on their age. He was inspired to make such a schooling system after he had looked at the Prussian schooling system or the ‘Prussian model for common schools.’ After adopting the Prussian model for common schools, he used the lecture method, which was very common in the European countries. This very model created by Horace quickly gained success. Soon, many American states started building schools based on the very particular form and ideology, which later on came to be known as the ‘Factory model school.’ And this factory model school was adopted in the United States and many different countries. This very act of widespread factory model school can be considered the first step towards modern schooling.
And earlier in public schools, the idea of rote learning was emphasized, and it was not only the students who had to follow this principle, but it was also mandatory for the teachers. And students who caused a disturbance in the school and disrupted its learning atmosphere were expelled. And it was only after 1945. The states focused on developing full four-year curriculums for vocational courses. Throughout history, America was always segregated based on race, and so was their educational system. Until the civil war, hardly any African American got formal education. Thus, it was only after the civil war that the African Americans got a fair chance for formal education just like any American.
And the recent trends in education would be the emergence of computer science in the late 20th and early 21st Century. There was a rise in the use of various technologies to make learning easy. Normal classrooms turned into virtual classrooms, and now, due to the pandemic, one can even study just by sitting at home. And this proves a huge shift from the one-roomed schools to the factory model schools, which was later considered the normal classrooms, to the virtual classrooms with lots of technological aids and finally gaining education by sitting at the comfort of one’s own room.
Thus, it will be very wrong to give all the credits to just one single person for the invention of the school because many scholars have contributed to the establishment and the development of the school, and the modern education system was created as a result of those contributions made by various people from all over the world. The basics for the invention of a school that a place or an institution where knowledge was shared had started right from the time when humans first appeared on earth, but as the time passed by, the ideal model of the school kept on changing and finally around the 17th century we have Horace Mann introduce the factory model school which was later on accepted not only accepted in the United States but worldwide. But even after the ‘Factory Model School’ was accepted as an ideal school model, there have been continuous additions to the model, thus changing the model. It is a continuous and ongoing process.