Library Collections: Document: Full Text

Seventh Annual Report Of The Board Of Education; Together With The Seventh Annual Report Of The Secretary Of The Board

Creator: Horace Mann (author)
Date: 1844
Publisher: Dutton and Wentworth, Boston
Source: Available at selected libraries


Horace Mann was the most influential education reformer in the United States prior to the Civil War. From his position, beginning in 1837, as secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, Mann promoted the common school, a universal schooling for all American children that would prepare them for a competitive workplace and for civic engagement. He has been called “the father of American public education.”

In his Seventh Annual Report, Mann directly addressed the education of children with sensory disabilities. Mann clearly admired Samuel Gridley Howe, a fellow Unitarian, but was less laudatory of the techniques promoted by the Rev. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet at what became the American School for the Deaf. For Mann, the use of American Sign Language seemed contrary to his hopes for using public education to create a homogeneous American culture grounded in Protestant middle-class values. Mann’s views foreshadowed the rise later in the century of oralism, the movement to prohibit the use of sign language among deaf students. Mann had just completed a visit to Europe during which he visited several institutions for the deaf and blind.

Page 1:


I have seen no Institutions for the Blind equal to that under the care of Dr. Howe, at South Boston; nor but one indeed, (at Amsterdam,) worthy to be compared with it. In many of them, the blind are never taught to read; and in others they learn only a handicraft, or some mere mechanical employment. Generally speaking, however, music is taught; and in Germany, where the blind, like all other classes of society, are taught music very thoroughly, I saw a common mode of performance on the organ which is very unusual in America. The organs were constructed with a set of keys for the feet; so that the feet could always play an accompaniment to the hands.


In Paris, the new edifice for the blind now just completed, is, in its architectural construction and arrangement, an admirable model for this class of institutions.


In regard to the instruction given to the Deaf and Dumb, I am constrained to express a very different opinion. The schools for this class, in Prussia, Saxony and Holland, seem to me decidedly superior to any in this country. The point of difference is fundamental. With us, the deaf and dumb are taught to converse by signs made with the fingers. There, incredible as it may seem, they are taught to speak with the lips and tongue. That a person, utterly deprived of the organs of hearing, -- who indeed never knew of the existence of voice or sound, -- should be able to talk, seems almost to transcend the limits of possibility; and surely that teacher is entitled to the character of a great genius as well as benefactor, who conceived, and successfully executed, a plan, which, even after it is accomplished; the world will scarcely credit. In the countries last named, it seems almost absurd to speak of the Dumb. There are hardly any dumb there; and the sense of hearing, when lost, is almost supplied by that of sight.