The Rise of the Public School in America

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Colonial schoolhouse in Hollis, New Hampshire

Would the free public school institution do well in the young United States?

In the United States, education was of great concern to the law makers. During the 19th century, American education was private and unorganized. Reforms in American education would move slowly, but they occurred. American education expanded within the period of 1820-1850. New educational ideas sprouted, especially within the influential New England states.

In Search of US Education Reforms

The new ideas permeating within the United States were to place children inside schools for extended periods to learn reading and writing. In addition to that, it was believed that formal training of character-building would prepare children to make meaningful contributions to the country as they became future American citizens. Purely intellectual school training was not as important as training children to accept moral indoctrination. The American school, thus, was seen as an extension of the family and could serve as a substitute for it.

Educational Gaps Helped Bad Stereotyping

Since children of upper middle class and affluent parents were able to obtain a suitable and fine education, it became formulaic that these children held appropriate ethical upbringings. While with children of poorer parents were seen as being would-be criminals or deviants to American society. Since deprived children lacked education, they also lacked the required societal moral rearing associated with it.

American education reformers were shocked at how immigrant and poor children lacked a proper home environment. It became a teacher’s responsibility to train and correctly instruct children from dissimilar belief systems and ethnic backgrounds.

In the United States before 1820, schooling was substandard. Wealthy parents were sending their children to private boarding schools, while children of poor parents were sent to pauper schools which were financed by the US government. School reforms were making above average progress in the North; but in the South, they made slower progression. Nonetheless, this did not shake the American mindset that free learning institutions were capable of closing the economic gap between rich and poor Americans.

Middle class Influence on American Education

The American rich are in a class all by themselves. They can purchase all that money could buy. They also have huge influences on American society, but, their numbers are very small. However, the middle class have much larger numbers in the United States. They became the reformers who would seize the initiative to reshape education in the United States of America. Their goal of social discipline was able to provide that which was desirable for state legislative achievement. Adding to that, the chief spokesperson for the American public school movement to resemble that of the popular Prussian educational system was the Secretary of Education for Massachusetts, an abolitionist and education reformer known as Horace Mann (1796-1859).

Horace Mann Reforms US Education

Horace Mann was a leader in the fight to establish a national board of education along with adequate support for taxes to support the local schools. Adversaries against a national board of education complained that school taxes violated rights of property. But Mann responded in favor of how school taxes were for the good of the community and how children would be saved from a life of crime and poverty.

Horace Mann was able to acquire the praise and momentum from the American middle and upper class for his education reform plan. He held educational beliefs based on the premise that children were like clay and that school teachers were important in forming them. Children would, thus, be molded into something which was able to progress American society for the common good.

Horace Mann did not live to see his vision of a nationwide public school system. And for his hard work and dedication to reform American public educational facilities, he was noted as being the “Father of American Public Education.”