Oak Ridge, United States

The Secret History of American Education

If you were to ask student if they like school, they would probably tell you no and that school really sucks. Each and every day millions of students are marched off to school, but has anyone ever stopped to ponder why school is structured the way it is? Kids move from class to class at the ring of a bell without hesitation or questioning. How was society able to implant such a uniform and structured schedule into the minds of unsuspecting children? Much of this credit can be given to a man named Horace Mann. Mann along with a few others adopted ideas from the Prussian education system. This helped to form what is the American public school system that we have today. Though, over the years the education system has changed greatly, for better or for worse.

Horace Mann was born on May 4, 1796 in Massachusetts. Mann was a determined young man, having to work hard at his education due to his family’s humble farming beginnings. He was taught in a one room school house but eventually was able to attend Brown University. Mann went on study law and was also elected into the Massachusetts House of Representatives. As for his role in education, Mann was elected into the first ever Massachusetts state board of education as secretary. He continued to further shape American education today through his development of  proper teacher-training programs as well as changing the ways schools were formatted. Mann was also influenced and fascinated by German educational trends. Horace Mann  had a vigorous interest in German education and much of the ideas that he brought to the American education system were taken from that of Germany’s.

The education system that Horace Mann created has evolved greatly from the late 1700s to now. Back in the 1700s, education was drastically different. There were “very few schools…no desks, no maps…schooling was not required” (Sneed). It was all very funky because children were required to be able to read and write but schooling wasn’t required. The majority of children that received a proper education came from wealthy families. Also, there was a fair amount of discipline going on in these houses of learning. Back in the day they were a lot more harsh with the punishment. If a student acted out, he/she would be hit with a paddle or smacked in the face. Then, there was a big step forward for education. “In 1837 the state created its board of education, one of the first in the country, with Mann assuming stewardship as its secretary” (Biography.com). During these early 1800s schools got much more serious. Massachusetts passed a law making all grades of public school open to all pupils free of charge. The first ever high school was created. Reform schools were introduced along with hall monitors. Teachers taught large classes and then the faster students helped teach the class. Finally, there is the education and schooling of the present. We have levels like pre-k, kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school, and college. America has increased the number of schools greatly. It’s sad to say we have become a little soft, especially in punishment. Teachers are no longer allowed to legally hit their students. Rebellious kids are just sent to the principal where they receive timeout. It is crazy though, how much we have advanced since those early beginnings of school teachings. To make it even better, we are making improvements and getting smarter everyday.

Horace Mann played a pivotal role in America’s education today. He took his ideas from both personal experiences in school as a child and from German education trends. We owe our current educational system to him along with a few of his collaborators. There is somewhat of a controversy regarding whether Mann should be praised for the education we get today or blamed for his brainwashing methods of sending children to school practically herded like sheep to each class to be stuffed with information to help society and the working industry once out of school. So it’s up to you to decide, was Mann helping or hurting with his methods? If your answer is that it hurts more than helps, then there needs to be a fight to help change the way we go about education today. One method that has tried to help is using common core to make school less standardized and allow kids the freedom to explore more complex material and to think outside the box. Horace Mann worked for what he thought was best but so can we. If we want to see change we need to see action first, and it starts with just a single person to take that first step.

Article by Kashtin Holly & Jackson Slaughter

Works Cited

Feo5581, editor. “Horace Mann.” Wikipedia.com, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Horace_Mann. Accessed 14 Nov. 2017.

Goode, Hubie. “Think of The Homeless.” blogspot.com, 28 Oct. 2010,

    hubiegoode.blogspot.com/2010/10/. Accessed 14 Nov. 2017.

Jordan, Adam. “Horace Mann & Education Reform: Contributions & Philosophy.”
Study.com, 2003, study.com/academy/lesson/
horace-mann-education-reform-contributions-philosophy-quiz.html. Accessed
13 Nov. 2017.

“Horace Mann.” Biography.com, A&E Television Networks, 4 Jan. 2017,
www.biography.com/people/horace-mann-9397522. Accessed 14 Nov. 2017.

“School in the 1700s.” Prezi.com, -https://prezi.com/zksgojwsfw01/
education-in-the-1700s. Accessed 13 Nov. 2017.

Comments are closed.