HORACE MANN’S CONCEPTION OF DEMOCRATIC EDUCATION: Essay

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U.S. educator, the first great American advocate of public education, who understood that, in a democratic society, education should be free and universal, nonsectarian, democratic in method, and reliant on well-trained, professional teachers. The position holds little intrinsic authority or budget, but Mann used his visible post and oratorical skill to unify different school districts. Mann claimed that the schools were the sensible place to develop democratic idealism, and achieved the support of business to fund education. State aid to education and teacher salaries doubled during his possession, as did the school year in many towns. He instituted training programs for teachers, district libraries and enacted the first compulsory school attendance laws in America. Horace Mann was a believer in the teaching of “practical” knowledge. As Secretary of Education in Massachusetts Mann chose books that maintained a neutral view of politics and religion. “He rejected the stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne, saying ” we want something nearer to duty and business.” Even as a father he forbid the reading of fairy tales to his children as the wonders of the natural world had enough to captivate their imagination. (GAE, PG 5) Mann’s dedication to the Common School sprang from his belief that political stability and social harmony lies in education: a basic level of education and the inculcation of common public ideals. He declared, “Without undervaluing any other human agency, it may be safely affirmed that the Common School…may become the most effective and benignant of all forces of civilization.”

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