Horace Mann – Father of Public Schooling

Table of Content

According to chapter one in Joels, Horace Mann was known as the father of public schooling. He began as a lawyer, but left law in order to pursue education. He believed that education was the source of a good and flourishing society.

Although he held somewhat idealistic beliefs about education, he never backed down from trying to instill his views in the public-school system. He believed that if everyone used their rights to vote, then political change will come about. Therefore, he believed that the school system should instill a common desire to vote.

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In addition, he believed that crime rates could be reduced if more people were enrolled in school and if a common set of moral beliefs were taught in school. Mann also believed, to diminish the gap between the rich and poor, students from all socio-economic and racial backgrounds should be put together in one classroom. Although this was a good idea, at the time, it was limited by the segregation, discrimination and denial of citizenship that was happening all around.

It wouldn’t be until the civil rights movement many years later that these barriers would some what be broken. Don Dewy, who was thought of as the great educational philosopher of his time, was a big proponent of the school expansion in the 1880’s and 1920’s. Dewy held the belief that schools brought people’s ideas and views together. During his time, schools were seen as a general welfare program under the slogan “the whole child goes to school”.

Public schools began to take on the responsibility for the child’s health, wellness and cleanliness by hiring a school nurse. Schools also began to create after school programs and built playgrounds to create a place for children to play outside.

Additionally, diet became important to public school systems and school cafeterias were created. In line with Dewy’s ideas on school health concerns, a national health campaign began at the same time. School cafeterias and home economic classes began to play a major role in improving the nations health quality. The idea was, the school cafeteria would reform the American eating habits by persuading children to abandon their unhealthy eating habits and retain the healthy habits of the school.

In addition, the home economic classes were designed to teach women how to cook with quicker and clean instant food. Eventually, to have more time at home to educate and improve the condition of the community.

However, this early economic class paved the way for the process and fast-food generation that we live in now. Concerned about this, congress began the Obesity Prevention and Treatment Act in 2002. According to Spring, at that time more than 60% of the US adults were overweight. Whereas, in 2010, the CDC reported that in the past thirty years, childhood obesity has tripled (Spring, Joel 2010). Now, there are again reforms that are aimed towards improving the nations health and eating habits.

In addition to food health, there has been an increase since the 19th century on national drug and alcohol abuse awareness. The best-known anti-drug program is the DARE program which is a police led program that outlines the benefits of living in a drug-free life.

Mann has proposed the idea of teaching commonly held morals and beliefs.

Throughout school histories, there have been many different approaches to sex education. This has raised more conflict, due to the sensitive subject materials. Since sex education was first promoted in 1926, by the National Education Association’s Committee on Character Education. In order to fight the steady decline of the traditional family and to regulate sexual Impulses.

These early courses taught that sexual control was necessary to maintain and protect a stable society.

As in the 1920’s, todays sex education is controversial, though in different ways. In the 1920’s, sex education was more controversial, and some people disagreed with the whole idea of it being taught.

Today, this disagreement is more on what and how the material is being taught and its values.

According to Spring, pregnancy rates have declined, but this may not be contributed to the use of contraceptives. However, one major problem is that STD’s are still increasing in young women. The school became a social place for the community, and schools-built auditoriums for the community to use.

The idea behind this was that this would take place of bars, dance clubs etc. the morality of the community would be uplifted when the recreational settings were changed to community based. In turn, this would provide hope for families and one day provide positive change to the community.

In summary, up to this point in history, the goals of public schooling include regulation sexuality through sex education, reducing crime through moral instruction and character education, improving children’s health with schools’ nurses. Improving the nutrition of students by adding school cafeterias and home economic instruction, which in turn led to a national awareness of nutrition and health. Finally, creating a sense of community by providing after-school programs and extra-curricular activities. 


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