Ask a Scholar: What Impact Did Horace Mann Have On American Public Education?

Sandra Stotsky

Dear Ask a Scholar: 

What impact did Horace Mann have on American public education?  Was it the fact that he opened training facilities for teachers?

Answered by Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita in the Department of Education, University of Arkansas, and former research associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.   She is the author of Losing our Language, among many other works.  She also served as Senior Associate Commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education and as a member of the US Education Department’s National Mathematics Advisory Panel in 2006.

Horace Mann had a huge impact on education, in Massachusetts and nationally.  He is best known for his policy on compulsory education--free elementary school education for all.  This was in mid-nineteenth century Massachusetts.  He is almost as well known for the founding of "normal" schools to prepare elementary teachers, often a one or two-year course of training after grade 10 or so.   Among the first two normal schools were Bridgewater Normal School (where I grew up--in its shadow) and Framingham Normal School.

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