Why Did Horace Mann Invent School?

why did horace mann invent school

Introduction: Horace Mann is famously known as the father of the Common School and was a lawyer and legislator by profession. In 1837 he was elected as the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education. It is during this time that he used his authority to bring rapid changes in the American education policy and started the landmark common school movement. In 1848 he resigned from the post of secretary of the education board and was then elected as a Whig to the thirtieth Congress to fill the vacancy created by the death of John Quincy Adams. Here, we’ll discuss Why Did Horace Mann Invent School?

What Was Common School Movement?

The common school movement was a movement started by Horace Mann to propagate the idea of universal education. The main aim of the movement was to provide education to every child funded from state taxes. It was for the first time started in Massachusetts, but later spread to other parts of the nation. The common school movement also focused on promoting statewide curriculum through these common schools. A new property tax was also imposed to fund these common schools. It also focused on removing corporal punishments from the school system and reinforcing a positive attitude towards children in school.

Let us know More About Common Schools:

Common Schools were created in the United States and Canada in the 1800s as a result of the common school movement started by Horace Mann. The main focus of these schools was to provide universal education to students from all backgrounds and religions. Although it was not until 1954 that the system of legally mandated but racially segregated system of public education was abolished. The Supreme Court of the United States abolished this ill practice in the famous Brown v. Board of Education case. Before this decision in 1855 Massachusetts, the state where the common school movement started, became the first state to abolish this system of racial segregation. The later supreme court in its landmark judgment case of Engel v. Vitale declared the reading of the Bible and school-sponsored prayers unconstitutional.

These common schools were open to all the white children between the ages of 6-14. It was funded by state taxes and did not have any tuition fees. 

Before Common Schools: Before the common school movement, education in the United States was a local affair. Schools were run by locally elected school boards and the curriculum was also decided by them. Moreover, the curriculum of these schools was based on moral as well as religious values. These schools worked on the Calvinist Philosophy of discipline. Students were subjected to Corporal punishment and public humiliation. The education system in the south was even worse. There were very few public schools and most of the children got their primary education at home from their families. Some wealthier families could afford tutors but most of the children were taught by members of their family itself.

Reasons Behind Horace Mann’s Invention of School

Horace Mann believed that education leads to social harmony and political stability. According to him public education helps in making a good citizenry, responsible people, democratic state, and ensures overall wellbeing of the society. Horace Mann quoted that the common school may become the most effective and benignant institute of a civilization. Mann believed that a Republic form of government without literate and intelligent people was nothing but a madhouse without any head or keeper. All the public schools of this century work on the lines of Mann’s common school movement today. The theory of Horace Mann has worked as a blueprint for school and education policies not just in the United States but all over the world.

Mann believed that providing Nonsectarian common schools to all citizens comes under religious as well as civic duties. Furthermore, he believed that the only force that can bring equality in society is education. He called education the “balance wheel of the social machinery.” The right to education was called a natural right of every individual. 

Horace Mann invented a public school because of the problematic nature of the education policy and the kind of schooling that prevailed in the United States at that time. In 1838 Horace Mann founded a journal called “The Common School Journal”. In this Journal Horace Mann talked about the problematic nature of public schools in the United States. Mann believed that reforming educational institutions and including children from all classes into one school will provide unprivileged children an opportunity to develop. His ideas were opposed by many conservatives, Boston schoolmasters, and the church sectarians. 

Mann also wanted to reform the policies of the Calvinist philosophy of Corporal punishment. Instead, he wanted to replace it with the policies of positive reinforcement. He also introduced the Prussian model of schooling. Accordingly, students were assigned grades according to their age. After a student completed all the grades of a secondary school he/she was offered a certificate of completion. 

Horace Mann was shrewd enough to not only make reforms in students’ curriculum but also advocated teachers’ training. He made early attempts to professionalize teaching in the history of the United States. He established the first Norman school in Massachusetts. Another revolutionary idea propagated by Horace Mann was to encourage women to be professional teachers. They were often recruited through the Norman Schools. This idea was opposed by many owing to the patriarchal nature of society. But Mann was firm in his stand that women should be recruited in the ranks of teachers. He believed that it was necessary for the overall development of society.

There was also a subsequent gap between the quality of education in urban and rural areas. Horace Mann hence also believed that there is a need to bring educational reforms in rural areas. Equality in education for all sections of society was the main aim of Mann. All these reforms were a part of Horace Mann’s determination towards making education more constructive, equal, and secular.

The movement of Horace Mann was joined by more like-minded people in other parts of the United States. Reformers like Henry Barnard advocated the formation of common schools in Connecticut and Rhode Island on the lines of Horace Mann. Samuel Lewis and Calvin Stowe advocated the same in Ohio. Certain Women also took up this task of an educational reformist. Harriet Beecher Stowe is a noteworthy name in the list of women that worked towards the betterment of education especially among women. She also worked towards promoting teaching as a profession among women.


Horace Mann belonged to a very poor family and got his primary education from comparatively poor teachers. He managed to get into Brown University and did some mind-blowing research work. Here, he got the opportunity to research the Political, social, and educational problems of the country. Of the many problems, Mann researched, education was his favorite. In this direction, he gave up on his career as a lawyer and became the secretary of the education board. Here, he directly got to see the poor state of education and decided to bring a reform in it. This is the reason why Mann initiated the Common school movement and established the first Public school in the United States. 

Why Did Horace Mann Invent School?

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