This week, we learned about Horace Mann’s contributions to society, and specifically his contributions to public education. He wrote that “teaching is the most difficult of all arts and the profoundest of all sciences” (Mann, 1838), bringing the attention of the public to education, and creating state-funded programs for teacher training. This, to me, was his most important contribution.
Prior to Mann’s influence in the early- to mid- 1800’s, there were no state laws making public education mandatory. In fact, if a child lived in a rural community, likely they didn’t have a school to attend, and learned everything from their parents, relatives, and community. It wasn’t seen as important to ensure that everyone received an education, but Mann put the problem in terms of economics. He said that “education is the lifeblood of commerce” (Scheuerman, 2014), and expressed to the readers of his first annual report why education was important to them as well as the children. He believed that if properly supported and provided for, public education could be the means of creating a better society. This is a belief that we have in common. I think that in order to create a better society for the US, providing a “better” and proper education for all its inhabitants is a requirement. However, I don’t think that that education must be a certain way. Mann believed in providing reading and language instruction, which I agree is important (especially in terms of communication). I also think that there is more to education than just your basic standards. Trade schools are becoming more popular of an option for students who have graduated high school, but what about younger students? While we are so focused on standards, we tend to ignore other areas such as art, physical sciences, and humanities. But these are just as important.
Another contribution from Mann that I believe is significant today is his emphasis on teacher training programs. There are many of these today, including the STARS training I went through as an early childhood educator. From personal experience, I can say that the STARS classes and the other trainings I went to while teaching preschool were not only helpful to me, they were beneficial to my students. As a future elementary teacher, I still think continued education for educators is highly important. It helps to keep teachers’ knowledge fresh while also providing a forum to share ideas, learn new methods, and bring about further positive changes in the classroom.
Mann, H. (1838). First annual report. Boston: Dutton and Wentworth.