Horace Mann: A Man of Ideas Beyond his Time

Currently, is very difficult to imagine a society where education is not offered to everyone or is not available in every sector of the country. Nevertheless, during Horace Mann’s time, free education was far from been a public matter much less a widely accepted thought; however, courage and dedication from this man was the key to what we are able to enjoy now: a Public Education for all. In the United States we have a vision of educating everyone, is yet to prove if we are doing a good job, but it is certain that no one under any circumstances is denied of an education sometimes even tailored to their individual needs.

Horace Mann was a person with ideals that symbolized equality and opportunities for all. He envisioned a place where people were able to be free, where women worked, mental patients were treated humanely and information was not censored. Thanks to thinkers like Mann, we are now able to enjoy these benefits and have been moving forward from a general society in fear of divulging their thoughts to one more open; a society where we work wherever we want, study anywhere we please and interact with people of all races, nationalities, socio-economic status, backgrounds and even with different theological and philosophical views.

During Horace Mann’s twelve years as part of the Massachusetts Board of Education, he wrote yearly reports that were meant to improve the educational system and conditions of the students. In his First Report he wrote about the importance of having an intelligent local board and public commitment towards education and if you think about it is not like they aren’t current common concerns. I think that perhaps if our Miami-Dade District was more interested in fulfilling its obligation to our students then there wouldn’t be such a hole in the school budget, isn’t it interesting how there is never money for teachers but they are always hiring more administrators?.

I have to say I agree with Mann when he writes: “thus the standard, in descending to a point corresponding with the views and wants of one portion of society, falls below the demand and the regards of another” (Cremin, p.30). Since public schools sometimes may not have all the necessary resources to operate effectively, parents remove their children and place them in either a private school or a charter school, which ultimately leads to the indifference in the community towards academic standards and performance of public schools. If public schools maintain a higher level of expectation from every student regardless of race or socio-economic status and provide equal amount of resources to every school, then all children will be receiving a true equal and free education; not only would this promote the notion in society of fairness and impartiality but would also help families from poor or uneducated backgrounds to make every effort to obtain a better quality of life and get the sense that they are able to achieve more than what they have been surrounded by.

Now, when Mann refers in his Fourth Report to the importance of competent teachers I have to say I agree with him; as educators, we should make an honest commitment with ourselves and prepare adequately to guide students to the path of knowledge and provide them with the necessary tools to succeed; moreover, educators should have mastery of the subject area or content they are teaching, be fully aware of the curriculum that is to be covered and most of all strive for understanding not memorization. Nevertheless, like he wrote in his Second Report: “though much may be done by others to aid, yet the effective labor must be performed by the learner himself” (Cremin, P.37). If a student is not a fan of Reading then is up to the teacher to perceive this as a challenge and find ways to interest the pupil. It is true that without the willingness there is little to be done; nevertheless, encouraging learning will ultimately not only be a lesson to students on content itself but a life lesson on self-efficacy and dedication; in addition, demonstrating persistence to children, instead of talking about it, is a more effective way to promote discipline than the use of punishment would ever be.

I have to say that at the end of the day, I believe the purpose of education is to give society tools to improve their financial life, knowledge to evaluate different points of a situation and understanding to choose between right and wrong. Education is meant to provide a platform for success and progress but if are not able to raise the standards then what type of education are we offering and what type of society are we creating? Are we promoting a society that is more interested in profiting from education than in learning itself? Or are we just been accepting of mediocrity and the thought that not everyone could be great? I mean, providing funds according to the performance of the school does not secure a change in it and by taking away from some we are establishing that not everyone deserves the same education, then why have public education if not for the benefit of all members of society?

Reference:

Cremin, Lawrence. The Republic and the School: Horace Mann on The Education Of Free Men. 10th Ed. Nov 9th, 2010.

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