According to Dictionary.com, the definition of “reform” is, “to change for the better.” Change all depends on the individual’s perspective of “better”. One might believe free slaves is for the good of mankind because the Constitution claims “all men are created equal”, while another feels it is for the good of the country to keep slaves for the purpose of various labor. Many reform movements surfaced between 1820 and 1840; man of those movements involving an individual’s right. One movement that I will discuss is education and the public school reform. The question is whether or not these movements want “change for the better” or is it just a tactic to wind society into a similar kind. All movements use both methods by groups supporting for a change in rights and groups who oppose that want a homogeneous society explained by Foner, “Nearly all these groups worked to convert public opinion to their case” (Foner 410).
In the case of school reform’s Public Education in Massachusetts, Massachusetts holds a theory that, “…all are to have an equal chance for earning, and equal chances for earning, and equal security in the enjoyment of what they earn”(Horace Mann on Public Schools). This is the belief that every child, every person, deserves an opportunity to explore its intelligence and build on it held mostly to the Northern States. When Horace Mann entered the Massachusetts School Board as Secretary, the one main commitment he felt most passionate about was a free school of public education for everyone to be paid for by tax payers.
Mann was a major supporter of education despite an individuals economic or race status. In a report to The Board of Education to The Slate Legislator Mann explains that education would end poverty, “It does better than to disarm the poor of their hostility towards the rich; it prevents being poor…” (Mass. Education) and would also “restore equality”(Foner 420), and lead to social advancement by, “bringing the children of all classes together in a common learning experience and equipping the less fortunate to advance in the social scale” (Foner 420). Mann’s vision would not only help those in a lower economic status but women as well, as career opportunities open women will be able to apply for jobs as teachers. His belief is that free education was an essential part of being a citizen and participating in a democratic way is part of building one’s well being. Mann wanted a change to better society and especially took into mind for families who could not afford schooling.
Of course with any reform or movement there are two sides. Those opposing public schools were mostly southern states and parents. Theses were parents who wanted their children to be schooled within the family at home and not someone else. The South had a difficult time viewing public schools as an advancement for society. In the South, “where literate blacks were increasingly viewed as a danger to social order and planters had no desire to tax themselves to pay for education for poor white children, lagged far behind in public education.” (Foner 420). Those that viewed African American individuals as a threat because they had enough education to read is a perfect example of southern states wanting to build on a homogeneous society. The elite made up most of the United States and in the South social class issues and racism still played a major part. They did not want to give any rights or education to these groups because they were or used to be slaves, or thought educating the poor would be a waste of time.
Although the Southern state’s did not agree with Mann’s vision of a free public school system at the time; the support of the North was enough for Mann to create public schools in every northern state. As stated by the U.S. Embassy in October 2010, “…almost 90 percent of American students attend elementary and secondary schools…” (Us Embassy), and according to the National Center for Education Statistics in 2008 there were 132,656 public schools spread throughout all 50 states in America. Mann could not live long enough to see the incredible outcome of what he fought so passionately for however, it is safe to say he wanted the substantive change in society for the good of his fellow people.
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