Horace Mann

Horace Mann

“The Father of American Public Education”

(1) Horace Mann, Secretary of Education of Massachusetts: Produced between 1844-1853


Mann was part of a lower-class farm family and was sparsely educated throughout the year in a one room schoolhouse. When he grew up he attended law school and studied politics. He was appointed to be the Secretary of the Board of Education in Massachusetts in 1837 and was in support of Common Schools (Defined as a tax funded, well developed, state public education system). Mann Felt that schools based on the agricultural revolution needed to be innovated for the country’s growth and to acknowledge the need for social justice. (3)

Field Work & Accomplishments:

Mann published a journal known as The Common School Journal (1838) to draw attention to problems within the current education system. In it he discussed his six principles that needed to be addressed in public education (listed below).

In addition Mann created “Normal Schools” based on his six educational principles. Normal Schools were created to train teachers on the best practices of teaching in the public school system. One could look at this as the first version of a “College of Education” or a form of what we know today as Professional Development.

[Science class, Normal school] by Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952 (27)

Mann also travelled to Europe (1843) to observe their school systems. Applauded Prussia’s educational system and worked to adopt their principles into American public schools. (6) He was particularly impressed that teachers were prepared with lessons and repeatedly mentioned his amazement that they taught without books in their hands. Mann was intrigued by the various topics they discussed, mentioning one being zoology, instead of just studying the bible.

Horace Mann’s 6 Principles (3)

  1. The public should not remain ignorant

  2. Public education should be paid for, controlled, & sustained by an interested public

  3. That this education will be best provided in schools that are inclusive of children from all backgrounds

  4. That this education must be non-sectarian (Not exclusive per religion or political affiliation)

  5. This education must be taught by the spirit, methods, and discipline of a free society

  6. That education should be provided by well-trained, professional teachers.

No one did more than he to establish in the minds of the American people the conception that education should be universal, non-sectarian, free, and that its aims should be social efficiency, civic virtue, and character, rather than mere learning or the advancement of education ends.”

-Ellwood P. Cubberley

(American Educator & Stanford Grad)