Social, Political, and Religious Change, 1800-1860 Education

What will you learn?


  • Summarize the growth of the American education system and Horace Mann’s campaign for free compulsory public education.
Early Schools and Horace Mann
Massachusetts’ schools
  1. Students only attended classes for a few weeks during the winter.
  2. Schoolhouses were run down.
  3. Teachers were uneducated.
  • Public or state-sponsored education was still a relatively novel concept in the United States. Though Thomas Jefferson had been a strong advocate for state funding of public education, public schools were not universally embraced as a right of the common man.
  • The first public secondary school was established in Boston in 1821 and marked the beginning of this long and slow struggle to achieve public funding. Horace Mann (1796-1859) was the one of the strongest proponents for public education and the common school. As a lawyer, Massachusetts State senator, and the first secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, he worked continuously on behalf of the public to achieve support for public education.
  • Many different groups such as private school owners, taxpayers, rural residents and members of the upper and wealthy classes opposed him because they felt public schools were not in their best interests.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why do you think children only attended schools a few weeks during the winter?
  2. What did people in early America think of education for children? Why?
  3. Who would often pay for school?
Horace Mann (1796-1859)
  • In 1837 Mann gave up a promising career in politics to become the first Secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education
  • Mann saw education as the means to achieve equality. He believed that once equality was achieved poverty and crime would decrease.
  • During his twelve years as Secretary Mann turned around the course of public education.


  1. He established training schools for teachers.
  2. Lengthened the school year to six months.
  3. Raised funds to pay for teachers’ salaries, school books, and schoolhouses.
Created By
Pedro Menino


Created with images by City of Boston Archives - "Early grade classroom scene with teacher and students" • City of Boston Archives - "Classroom scene with teacher Ida Adams conducting a lesson on Alexander Graham Bell" • City of Boston Archives - "Classroom of Mabel Adams" • ell brown - "Black Country Living Museum - St James's School - benches / desks"

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