1902 Encyclopedia > Horace Mann

Horace Mann
American educationist

HORACE MANN, one of the best-known of American educationists, was born at Franklin, Massachusetts, May 4, 1796, and died at Yellow Springs, Ohio, August 2, 1859. His childhood and youth were passed in great poverty. "It was the misfortune of his family that it belonged to the smallest district, had the poorest schoolhouse, and employed the cheapest teachers, in a town which was itself small and poor." His health was early injured by hard manual labour, which left him no time for recreation either in summer or winter. He lost his father at the age of thirteen. He was from his childhood an eager reader; but his only means of gratifying this desire was a very small library in his native town. Up to the age of fifteen he had never been able to attend school for more than eight or ten weeks in any one year. He remained at home, working for his mother and the rest of the family, till the age of twent}'. At that age he was taught the rudiments of Latin and Greek and a little English grammar by an itinerant schoolmaster, and entered the junior classes in Brown University in the year 1816. Symptoms of consumption, poverty, the necessity of supporting himself while at college, and other circumstances interfered with his studies. He, however, graduated in 1819. In 1821 he entered the school of law at Litchfield, Connecticut, and was called to the bar in 1823. In 1827 he was elected to the State legislature of Massachusetts, and in 1833 he was returned to the upper house. He suggested and organized the State lunatic asylum of Worcester. In 1837 the legislature appointed a board of education to revise and re-organize the common school system of the State; and Mann was appointed secretary. To give his whole time to the work, he gave up his profession and also his seat in the senate. He was secretary for twelve years. For these twelve years he worked fifteen hours a day, held teachers' conventions, gave lectures, and carried on an enormous correspondence. He started a periodical, The Common School Journal, in which he explained his views on education. He also published a series of Annual Reports; these American critics call "a classic on the subject." His seventh annual report gave the substance of his observations in Europe, and compared the systems of instruction followed in Prussia with those in use in Massachusetts, much to the disadvantage of the latter.

In 1848 Mann was elected to Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John Quincy Adams. He tried to induce the Government to establish a bureau of education at Washington, but this was not done till much later. He resigned his seat in Congress in 1853, and became the first president of Antioch College, at Yellow Springs,—a college for the combined education of men and women. Mann's chief work in American education is the reform which he brought about in the common and normal school system of Massachusetts; and this reform is largely due to his twelve annual reports.

Mann's other works are—Lectures on Education, 1848 ; A Few Thoughts for a Young Man, 1850 ; Slavery, Letters and Speeches, 1851 ; Powers and Duties of Women, 1853, &c. A complete edition of his writings, with a biography, was published in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1867; and a selection, under the title of Thoughts Selected from the Writings of Horace Mann, in 1869.

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