Library Collections: Document: Full Text

Report For 1848

From: Annual Reports On Education
Creator: Horace Mann (author)
Date: 1872
Publisher: Lee and Shepard, Boston
Source: Available at selected libraries


Horace Mannís Twelfth Report provided a clear justification for the inclusion of mainstream Protestant curriculum in public schools. For Mann, the common school was the most important vehicle for the moral reform of American society. Though he insisted that no single Protestant denomination should dominate public education, his views in reality reflected his own Unitarian faith. Moreover, Catholics, Jews, and non-believers would be appalled by his promotion of the Protestant Bible. Newly arrived Irish immigrants, overwhelmingly Catholic, would form their own parochial schools in response.

In terms of the economic value of a system of universal public schooling, Mann envisioned a meritocracy that would accelerate the pace of progress. Literacy and numeracy were valuable commodities in the post-Market Revolution world, and Mann sought to use education as means to create a society in which ability, not birth or family inheritance, dictated an individualís status. Overall, Mannís ideas were those of the dominant Northern middle class of the nineteenth century.

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Without undervaluing any other human agency, it may be safely affirmed that the common school, improved and energized as it can easily be, may become the most effective and benignant of all the forces of civilization. Two reasons sustain this position. In the first place, there is a universality in its operation, which can be affirmed of no other institution whatever. If administered in the spirit of justice and conciliation, all the rising generation may be brought within the circle of its reformatory and elevating influences. And, in the second place, the materials upon which it operates are so pliant and ductile as to be susceptible of assuming a greater variety of forms than any other earthly work of the Creator....


I proceed, then, in endeavoring to show how the true business of the schoolroom connects itself, and becomes identical, with the great interests of society. The former is the infant, immature state of those interests; the latter their developed, adult state. As "the child is father to the man," so may the training of the schoolroom expand into the institution and fortunes of the State....


According to the European theory, men are divided into classes, -- some to toil and earn, others to seize and enjoy. According to the Massachusetts theory, all are to have an equal chance for earning, and equal security in the enjoyment of what they earn. The latter tends to equality of condition; the former, to the grossest inequalities. Tried by any Christian standard of morals ... can anyone hesitate, for a moment, in declaring which of the two will produce the greater amount of human welfare?...


Moral education is a primal necessity of social existence. The unrestrained passions of men are not only homicidal, but suicidal; and a community without a conscience would soon extinguish itself.... But to all doubters, disbelievers, or despairers in human progress, it may still be said, there is one experiment which has never yet been tried.. .. It is expressed in these few and simple words: "Train up a child in the way he should go; and, when he is old, he will not depart from it".... But this experiment has never yet been tried. Education has never yet been brought to bear with one-hundredth part of its potential force upon the natures of children, and, through them, upon the character of men and of the race.... Here, then, is a new agency, whose powers are but just beginning to be understood, and whose mighty energies hitherto have been but feebly invoked....


But it will be said that this grand result in practical morals is a consummation of blessedness that can never be attained without religion, and that no community will ever be religious without a religious education. Both these propositions I regard as eternal and immutable truths.... That our public schools are not theological seminaries, is admitted. That they are debarred by law from inculcating the peculiar and distinctive doctrines of any one religious denomination amongst us, is claimed.... But our system earnestly inculcates all Christian morals; it founds its morals on the basis of religion; it welcomes the religion of the Bible....


I hold it to be one of the excellences, one of the moral beauties, of the Massachusetts system, that there is one place in the land where the children of all the different denominations are brought together for instruction, where the Bible is allowed to speak for itself; one place where the children can kneel at a common altar, and feel that they have a common Father, and where the services of religion tend to create brothers, and not Ishmaelites....


Such, then, the Massachusetts system of common schools. Reverently it recognizes and affirms the sovereign rights of the Creator, sedulously and sacredly it guards the religious rights of the creature.... In a social and political sense, it is a free school-system. It knows no distinction of rich and poor, of bond and free, or between those, who, in the imperfect light of this world, are seeking, through different avenues, to reach the gate of heaven. Without money and without price, it throws open its doors, and spreads the table of its bounty, for all the children of the State. Like the sun, it shines not only upon the good, but upon the evil, that they may become good; and, like the rain, its blessings descend not only upon the just, but upon the unjust, that their injustice may depart from them, and be known no more....