American Education: Horace Mann and the Common School Movement
This week’s lecture and reading touched on the life of Horace Mann and his contributions to American Education. According to Historical Perspectives: Education in America chapter, Mann had many accomplishments, all contributing to his title of the Father of American public school education. Mann helped popularize the idea of a universal and free education as well as making great strides in increasing appropriations for schools and teachers’ salaries. As I am reading through all of his accomplishments as well as those made by many other contributors to American education I keep wonder what my life would be like now had these large strides never have taken place.
Americans have begun to think of modern education as traditional and timeless; something our fathers before us had experienced, a right of passage. Horace Mann did not initiate the first Board of Education until 1837 and it was not until 1918 that the National Education Associate established guidelines for secondary schools. The idea of post grammar school as a compulsory and the need to attend college is incredibly modern. Public education is constantly under a microscope with many different groups examining its effectiveness. We have done away with practices such as segregation in schools and implemented special education and standardized tests. American public education has come a long way in the short time it has existed. I have taken this time to reflect as a teacher on where education has come from and where it can go from here. I firmly believe that education today is the best education American children have ever received. Students have access to so many resources and with the internet they can have their questions answered in an instant. With all of these opportunities and forward steps taken in public schools there are definitely some drawbacks. Standardizes test are beginning to create stressed out elementary schoolers who are far too concerned about their academic success than one should be at 7. There is also a great deal of pressure put on teachers to produce successful students in their classrooms. New rules and regulations are put into effect constantly and are often hard to keep up with. I have taken note of the ever evolving classroom I work in and take solace in the idea that if just one man, Horace Mann, can change the face of education so drastically, there is a large chance that someone else will come along and make major improvements upon it once again. Looking back at practices that were in place before Mann’s time, such as the mistreatment of teachers who were untrained, I wonder in a hundred years how will history reflect on our time as teachers? What will the text books say about teachers in the early 21st century?