Horace Mann, who is also known as the Father of American Public Education, is best known for being a Whig politician and for his determination in reforming the public schooling system of the United States of America in the early 1800s. Mann’s hard work and dedication paved the way to a better public education system in the United States of America.
Horace Mann was born on May 4, 1796 in Franklin, Massachusetts to his parents, Thomas Mann and Rebecca Stanley Mann. His father, who was a farmer, died when Horace was thirteen leaving a strong impression of moral worth and love of knowledge in his family. Growing up in poverty and without his father, Horace Mann learned to be self- reliant from an early age. Although Horace, himself, did not have a proper education from the ages of 10 to 20, he self- studied at his local library. At the age of 20, Mann enrolled himself into Brown University and graduated as the top of his class in 1819. During 1822-23, he studied law at Litchfield Law School.
In 1827, Mann was elected to the Massachusetts legislature and served until 1833. In 1835, Mann was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate and was its president from 1836 to 1837.
In 1837, Horace Mann was appointed as secretary of the Board of Education of Massachusetts, the United States’ first board of education. He held teacher conventions, lectured, and visited to every school in the state. He started the Massachusetts normal school system in Lexington and later Bridgewater and Barre. The normal school system inaugurated schools to train high school graduates to be teachers by training them by the standards of pedagogy and curriculum.
In 1838, Mann started a biweekly journal called the “Common School Journal”. He stated his six main principles addressing the problems of the public schooling system. His first statement was that the public should not remain ignorant for long. The second statement was that the public should take interest in paying for and maintaining education. The third statement was that the best education can be provided in schools that welcome children from different social classes, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. The fourth statement was that education should be free from sectarian influence. The fifth statement was that tenets of a free society should prevail while separating from education. Finally, the last statement is that education should be provided by well-trained, professional teachers. Many of social and political groups did not agree with Mann’s beliefs. Priests were angered by Mann’s belief that religion should not be part of the classroom, and politicians hesitated at the overreach of authority in the local school systems.
Mann hoped that by grouping all students of all classes together, they could all have the same learning experience. This would also help the less fortunate to excel just as the same pace as those who are more fortunate, and no one gets left behind. Mann also believed that having schools would not only teach reading, writing, and mathematics, but also discipline. Preparedness for class, promptness in attendance, and time management would train the young students for future employment.
Like many other American education reformers, Mann was fascinated by the European education system. In 1843, Mann went to Prussia. After returning back to the United States from Europe, he strived for the taking in the Prussian education model system in Massachusetts. In 1852, he supported the decision of adopting the Prussian Education System in Massachusetts.
In 1848, he resigned from his post as the secretary of the ‘Massachusetts State Board of Education’ to fill up the seat of John Quincy Adams in the ‘United States Congress’. He advocated exclusion of slavery in his first speech. He voluntarily counseled for Drayton and Sayres who were charged with stealing seventy-six slaves from the District of Columbia. In 1950, Mann was involved in a controversy against Daniel Webster, regarding the issue of slavery and the Fugitive Law. He called Webster’s support for the Compromise of 1850 a “vile catastrophe”. Mann was defeated by one vote, but many were impressed by the idea of Mann being an independent anti- slavery candidate, and he was re-elected, serving in the Congress from April 1848 to March 1853.
In September 1852, Horace Mann was nominated by the Free Soil Party for the position of the Massachusetts governor. Around that same time, he was also elected as the president of Antioch College at Yellow Springs in Ohio. Although he did not win the position of governor, he agreed to be the president of Antioch College. There, he taught philosophy, theology and economics. His lectures advocating public schools were attended by lay audiences from all over Midwest. Mann also hired his niece, Rebecca Pennell, who was the first female faculty member to be paid the same amount as her male co-workers.
On August 2, 1859, Horace Mann died at the age of 63 at Yellow Springs, Ohio. He was buried in the North Burial Ground, Providence, Rhode Island. He is known to be the most beneficial leader of the education reform in the antebellum period, and there are many monuments and schools that are named after him. “Be Ashamed to Die Until You Have Won Some Victory for Humanity,” was once said by Horace Mann, and he lived up to his motto in helping the United States’ education become what it is today.