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The Legacy of Horace Mann


by Merle L. Borrowman - 1973

Discusses the educational philosophy of Horace Mann and his contributions to educational development, while providing a thorough insight into Mann's mental attitudes. (Source: ERIC)

Horace Mann: A Biography. Jonathan Messerli. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972. $15.00.604 pp.

In becoming historically significant, an individual, perhaps inexorably, becomes a mere symbol: less than complete and with certain characteristics grossly exaggerated, as a clever cartoonist caricatures his subjects. Certainly this happened to Horace Mann, whose critical twelve-year service as Secretary to Massachusetts' first State Board of Education made him a central symbolic figure for historians, proponents, and opponents of the American public school system. For nearly a century he has been described as the "father" of the American public school system and of the American normal school and teachers' college. His significance in the history of American education has been greatly over-estimated; other aspects of his career have been neglected. Jonathan Messerli's biography restores perspective to the man who, under Messerli's hand, turns out to be an intriguing character whose total life gives much to ponder for those interested in the early years of our nation and in the impact of ideological, economic, and political forces on a sensitive, intelligent human being.

Messerli's book is not "history of education," although I cannot conceive of an historian of American education who will not find it interesting and valuable. It should be of equal interest and value to any historian concerned with the early nineteenth century. Mann was shaped by, and helped to shape, economic developments, partisan politics, attitudes toward slavery, and legislation affecting issues such as railroad construction, temperance, debt, and insanity. He was clearly a successful Massachusetts state legislator, as evidenced by his election as president of the State Senate. As John Quincy Adams' successor in the United States House of Representatives, he provided arguments against the Compromise of 1850, including the fugitive slave law, which were widely read, widely praised, and widely damned. When the Massachusetts Whig party split into Cotton Whigs and Free Soilers, Mann struggled to hold his friends and supporters on both sides; he terminated the struggle as a senior statesman to the Free Soilers. The much publicized conflict between Mann, as Secretary to the Board of Education, and his sectarian opponents was probably of less significance than some historians have believed, but it is nonetheless true that Mann was deeply involved in the religious life of the times, when Unitarianism was growing alongside more exuberant Protestant sects and both were confronting the old orthodoxy and the growing immigrant-borne Catholic influence. His life was also touched by the Western fever; Antioch College, of which he was the first president, reflected both the land speculation and the denominationalism which led midwestern villages to compete as the "Athens of the New World."

Messerli on Mann A good biography, rich in concrete detail, of a man deeply involved in the life of these times should, then, be of interest to any historian. This is precisely what Jonathan Messerli has provided. But good biography which attempts to reconstruct the inner psychological life of its subject as well as vividly to portray the subject's actions is also of interest to students of human nature. Again Messerli has done his job well: the behavior of Horace Mann makes sense—if he was indeed the kind of human being Messerli describes. Actually, as I shall argue below, Messerli's Mann doesn't ring totally true to me. But his is a plausible person, and he has certainly examined the hard data.

I think it unlikely that significant new data about the life of Horace Mann will come to light. Several lives of Horace Mann have previously been written, and Messerli has taken account of all therein reported. He has also carefully searched the manuscript collections for additional information. So we may, with this book, know about all we can concerning the events which deeply touched Mann and his response to them. New interpretations of these events and responses will of course flow from the imagination of other scholars who view them from different perspectives. Those who enjoy speculating about the relationships between a man's inner emotional life and his overt experiences and behavior will find Messerli's book provocative.

Messerli does not work out of a neo-Freudian perspective, but his biography is somewhat in the genre of Erik Erikson's historial writings on Luther and Gandhi. He makes extensive use of Mann's journals, personal letters, reminiscences, anecdotes, etc. to get at his subject's inner life. One suspects that this material, especially the reminiscences and letters, is flawed somewhat by the tricks of Mann's memory and his great need to be pitied and worshipped. Indeed, his need to perceive himself, and be perceived by others, as a martyr is the key to his whole adult personality, as described by Messerli, who is persuasive. Noting this need, however, Messerli does sometimes seem uncritical in trusting the reminiscences.

Messerli also uses his own imagination to fill in where the sources are silent, but I am glad he does so since he vividly and movingly describes events in Horace Mann's life. Thus Horace Mann's own feelings as he finished the Fourth of July oration for the city of Boston are set forth in great and vivid detail—his breathlessness, his feeling faint, his being bathed in perspiration. The sources do not contain such rich detail, although they do make plausible the conditions which Messerli infers. The book would be much less touching and exciting had Messerli not filled in from his own imagination, but the critical reader must note that he provides more detail than the sources technically warrant.

Of equal value to reader satisfaction is Messerli's inspection and reconstruction of details of the landscape, architecture, and climate that were part of Mann's environment. There is plenty of mud, unfinished buildings, heat and cold, emerging spring flowers, autumn leaf coloring, and ocean swells; the reader senses that he is moving through the concrete universe in which Mann moved and that Messerli has given the time and effort required to accurately reconstruct this universe. For those of us who tend toward a phenomenological perspective, this attention to the physical environment, as well as to the attempts of the subject, Mann, to make sense of his universe, is appealing.

I reported above that Messerli's characterization of Mann's personality is plausible, but that it doesn't quite ring true to me. Messerli describes Mann as essentially masochistic, often intolerant and pompous, and endlessly complaining, or at least describing himself as unjustly persecuted. I do not understand how such a man could have built the enduring friendships and loyalties Mann obviously built. To be sure, he broke with many of his friends and quarreled briefly with others. Yet again and again such powerful and perceptive men as Edmund Dwight, George Combe, Samuel Gridley Howe, George Emerson, and Josiah Quincy Junior rose to his support personally, politically, and economically. Perhaps they merely respected him; he was a politically effective, incredibly hard working, and sometimes astute person, totally dedicated to values held important by his supporters. But they behaved as if they loved him as well as respected him, and they were themselves popular enough to not need his approbation.

It is clear from all the sources and circumstances that Mann went through a period of intense depression after the death of his first wife, Charlotte Messer. Messerli argues that at this time Mann's prior life in law and legislation came to seem meaningless, and that his willingness to serve as Secretary to the new Board of Education reflected a desperate need to build a new life. Having made that decision, he invested all his resources in the new cause. To me, Messerli's argument here makes a great deal of sense so far as the making of this decision is concerned. Investing his total resources in the calling of the moment was typical of Horace Mann throughout his life and quite characteristic of the generation of Puritan Legatees to which he belonged, even those who had gone into business or who, like Mann, had rejected the theological arguments of orthodox Puritanism. Mann retained the classic Puritan style and temperament no matter how violently he rejected the theology. For a person of Mann's time and place, this behavior needed no martyr complex to sustain it.

Puritans Messerli amply documents Mann's characteristic over-reaction to criticism. Events, in reality teapot-tempests, were described and lived by Mann as if Armageddon were upon him. On the basis of this undeniable trait, and Mann's tortuous self-doubt and self-flagellation, rests Messerli's hypothesis that a martyr complex was the key to Mann's personality. Yet the habit of constantly examining the state of one's soul, or justifying oneself to God, and of reporting such spiritual inquisitions in one's diary or journal, was an old New England custom. The Puritan alone on his knees or in his closet always moaned about the state of his soul. When he arose from his knees he was a new and different man. A frontier aphorism claimed that "no man is more dangerous [arrogant might have been appropriate] than a Presbyterian just off his knees." Once the doubts had been privately expressed, and the ritual self-flagellation before God completed, the Puritan faced the outer world with great assurance and not a little gusto. Within his subculture, Mann was not alone in his tendency to see all conflicts as Armageddon. These were days when life was earnest, and I suspect that outwardly Mann must have been an attractive and reasonably warm companion, even to those friends who recognized his tendency to lose perspective on occasion.

Messerli notes that the Whig-Free Soiler issue led to Mann's being discredited politically. Though I agree that he could probably not have been re-elected to the House of Representatives, I find it remarkable that he navigated so long and well in those stormy political waters. Only a person able to compromise where necessary and to use a great deal of charm in fending off conflicting demands could have done as well as he did. His zeal for conflict no doubt at times embarrassed his friends, but rarely, as I see it, did it seriously distract from the success of his missions. I would not therefore place too much weight on the martyr complex, somewhat real though I think it was. Nor would I trust the sentiments expressed in the journals, as part of the traditional soul-searching ritual, as controlling his behavior on other occasions.

I raise this issue not because I am very certain that Messerli's emphasis is wrong, and certainly not because I have a convincing alternative explanation. Rather, there exists an intriguing methodological problem which confronts all historians who try to make some sense of a particular person's behavior. We have his actions in his peculiar circumstances, his more or less private deliberations and self-descriptions, and his public statements. The conventions concerning what a man reveals privately, for example, in a diary, as well as public rhetorical style vary significantly from time to time and from subculture to subculture. To put these three elements together in a way that satisfies oneself, let alone one's critics, is extraordinarily difficult. The easy way out is to stick with the behavior and explain it in terms of some general social movement. Yet if we are to learn from history what it means to be human, and about the range of human potential, it is necessary to attend to a person's inner, private world as well as to his public actions. Messerli has attempted to do just this, and we are enriched by his effort, whether his interpretation ultimately satisfies or not.

Readers will be interested in Messerli's stand on issues concerning Mann's position on two educational issues which have been subject to considerable debate in recent years. The first has to do with the extent of real educational reform achieved by Mann and his associates; the second has to do with Mann's educational and social philosophy, particularly as it relates to political and economic issues.

On the first item, I read Messerli as standing essentially with the revisionists who argue (a) that at the time Mann came to the front American education was already in much better condition than Mann described it as being, (b) that the values Mann expressed were already part of a rather massive consensus and therefore that the "battles" he described himself as waging were actually minor skirmishes, and (c) that aside from creating a bureaucracy to institutionalize extant convictions and practices, Mann and his disciples did not make too much difference in the actual educational situation. Besides augmenting the development of a professional bureaucracy, Mann's most important contribution, as I understand Messerli, was in creating a rhetorical rationale for the public schools system on which educators would rely for at least a century. Since these conclusions square with my own, perhaps I project them onto Messerli.

Messerli addresses the second, ideological question directly on pages 440-445 of his volume. He describes the argument as being between those who have seen Mann and his achievements as a victory for optimism and triumphant liberalism and those who have more recently described Mann, and his common school, as committed to the maintenance of the status quo and the prerogatives of the privileged classes. Messerli refuses to accept either description as appropriate. But he really simply begs the issue by asserting that Mann's greatest contribution lay in his recognition of the unlimited power of a total system of education, staffed by a professional bureaucracy, to bring about massive behavioral change and therefore to eradicate the evils which plague society. Mann's belief in the plasticity of human nature was the important thing as far as Messerli is concerned. I see this as question-begging because the question to which Messerli was presumably responding was precisely the question of what is evil and what is virtuous in human society. Mann's supporters see him using the power of the school for virtuous ends; his opponents see it as used in the perpetuation of evil. Yet Messerli's statement is responsive to a real question in respect to which some find Mann, and the public school system to which he contributed, lacking. There are those who believe the American faith in the power of schooling to have been unfounded, and they would argue that precisely because of its bureaucratic character it is incapable of having the impact which Mann believed it might have. Messerli accurately describes Mann's conviction. However, neither Mann nor Messerli examines the possibility that bureaucratization by its very nature limits the educative power of the school. If Mann was right in his assessment of the potential power of a system of schooling, then the issue about the kind of social system toward which public education tends would be even more crucial than it is usually described as being.

Although Messerli avoids direct comment on the liberalism-reactionary issue, he nevertheless thoroughly analyzes both Mann's rhetoric and his actions. The reader of this biography will have no difficulty reaching his own conclusions about the social values which Mann sought to implement. Indeed, I suspect both parties to the argument will find new evidence to support their views.

The Common School Reappraisal The publication of Jonathan Messerli's Horace Mann moves me to comment on the growing criticism of the public school system to which Mann contributed significantly and on the recent scholarly reappraisal and rejection of the values which Mann, and his successors, aimed to realize through the "common school." Mann argued that tax-supported, governmentally controlled schools could be made so attractive that parents of every social group would patronize them, and that in these schools children could develop a kind of public philosophy which would transcend the economic, religious, political, and ethnic barriers which tend to divide our citizen body. He also believed that in such an environment mutual trust and affection would emerge, and that each individual, given equal opportunity to learn, could rise to whatever heights of affluence and influence his natural talents warranted. The school, Mann thought, could become a safety valve releasing the pressures of frustration and exploitation which, unrelieved, drive individuals to vicious pursuits and set party violently against party. All this, he maintained, could occur in noncoercive classrooms, where neither the rod of corporal punishment nor the goad of emulation in the form of invidious comparison would be needed. Such has been the formal, idealized objective of American public schools.

After generations of eulogy by liberal historians, Mann and his ideals have recently become the target of angry, young historians. For example, Michael Katz has clearly documented the extent to which the underprivileged classes, early and late, have perceived the public school as of little value to them, if not as an institution deliberately designed to keep them in their miserable place. He has also pointed out how bureaucratization has made the schools increasingly less responsive to the needs of such people. The ethnic historians have seen the public philosophy as an ill-disguised affirmation of middle-class WASP values laced with an implicit but ever-present racism. The professional bureaucracy which Mann and his kind labored so hard to create is now perceived by proponents of alternative schools, as well as by certain scholars and in some segments of government, as incapable of responding to the real educational needs and interests of many of the young. Until recently, public school teachers at least verbally affirmed pride in their calling and were viewed by a significant segment of the population, including some lower-class and minority parents, as rendering an important service. Now one senses that public school educators are tired, frightened, frustrated, and guilt-ridden. Teacher pride is in low supply. Not only is Horace Mann's dream perceived as having nightmarish qualities, the public schools themselves have become, to many students and critics, a nightmare.

It is easy to tabulate the shortcomings: too many poor and minority children have failed to find in schools the path to affluence and social influence; too many have found the public school's official social philosophy in conflict with values they affirm by virtue of their race, social class, or religious community; too many have become alienated from the dominant culture, rather than affirming it and dedicated to serving it. Where brought into physical proximity with classmates of different social origins, too many have had their worst prejudices against the one who is different confirmed. In other cases, given demographic trends, it has been easy for affluent parents to create islands in which their children flourish educationally without confronting and learning to live comfortably with the poor and non-white. Public school boards have not been able to govern schools wisely nor to support them adequately. Educationally, the poor get poorer, and the rich richer.

The revisionist historians no longer see Horace Mann as merely naive in his judgments about the pervasive power of a privileged class and about the beneficent consequence of mere proximity and association on the attitudes of the young. They now suggest that the public schools were consciously designed to perpetuate the selfish interests of the establishment. The issue is not, as Messerli describes it, whether Horace Mann was a liberal or conservative, since liberalism itself is now perceived by its critics as apologetic and ultimately protective of the status of privileged classes or groups. The issue is whether or not the schools serve to perpetuate the existing hierarchy of privilege and power or to facilitate the creation of a classless society.

No doubt Horace Mann, and most public school educators and school board members since his time, took for granted a hierarchical distribution of wealth and influence. They saw people grouped according to criteria of success and achievement. The most they hoped for was a Jeffersonian "natural" aristocracy, an aristocracy based on achievement in a competitive universe in which opportunities to develop talent were equally available to all regardless of the conditions of their birth.

Nor do I doubt that the public philosophy, the common elements of republicanism and Christianity which the public schools were intended to indoctrinate, was largely derived from northwestern European Protestant tenets and included much of what is now derided as the Puritan ethic. Yet it must be noted that certain elements of the Puritan ethic were not sanctioned merely by their origin in European Protestantism or Catholic Augustinianism. Hard work and frugality were conditions of survival in the colonies and the new nation. And devotion to a calling does relieve one of anxiety about the significance of one's life.

In fact, the critics of Horace Mann are, ironically enough, like him in many ways. One notes, for example, the same tendency to invest oneself in a moral cause, even if it is the cause of destroying systems built by other men with other causes. The truly alienated, at least in Kenneth Keniston's taxonomy, are not active critics. His young radicals are those with a moral cause which operates much like the Puritan calling. Moreover, the critics' penchant to insist that one is either with them or against them, that the forces of virtue and of evil are now locked in mortal combat over high moral issues, is singularly puritanical. Finally, the insistence that virtue must be brought quickly to prevail, and a reliance on demagogic rhetoric to bring about this prevalence, link the new critics to their liberal opponents.

As an agency to provide individual upward mobility in a society which allocates wealth and power according to achievement, the public school system has largely, though not totally, failed certain ethnic minorities, especially the non-white. It has been successful for significant numbers of white youths of lower-class origin, thought not for all of them by any means. Messerli argues that Mann had great confidence in the power of a "total system" of education, and that he believed the public schools could become such a total system. If he believed in the establishment of a total system, it is clear that logically he should have joined those labor leaders who argued for residential schools. Then, as now, it should have been apparent that the school cannot compensate for differences in the educational potentiality of the home, community, economic situation, religious institution, and other available community resources. If equality of opportunity is the goal, then a transfer of educational capital from the wealthy to the poor is a necessary condition of its achievement. To express, as Mann and other schoolmen have expressed, a commitment to equality of opportunity and then to fail to support such a transfer of educational capital warrants skepticism about the depth of their commitment to equality. Those who hear the promise, but know their own poverty in educational capital, quite understandably conclude that they are being hoodwinked.

Equal Opportunity Moreover, the ideal of equal opportunity through education for success based on one's own achievement is valid only to the extent that such achievement is indeed the criterion by which wealth and power are distributed. That our culture has not relied totally, perhaps not even largely, on this criterion seems evident, strikingly so with respect to our non-white populations. (Incidentally, for a white man of his time, place, and circumstances, Horace Mann was extraordinarily sensitive to the injustice of racial discrimination, and I suppose that as a class white public school educators have been somewhat more sensitive, and more committed to dealing justly with the minority communities, than has the white population at large.)

Again, however, the public school has not been a total system of education and could not therefore have brought about the reform of society to insure that achievement would in fact serve as the primary criterion in awarding wealth and influence. The school could have done more, in the selection of instructional materials, the grouping of children, and the behavior of teachers, to avoid contributing to discriminatory habits and to the idealization of the white middle and upper classes. To have done so would have required remarkable unselfishness, wisdom, and open-mindedness on the part of governing agencies such as school boards.

Were we given real equality of opportunity through education, could the common schools have created the community for which Horace Mann hoped? His hope was based on two premises: the power of association while young and the definition and internalization of a common set of moral and political commitments.

As far as the matter of association is concerned, the record is mixed. The history of ethnically mixed schools in America is full of fights among groups of children defined as Yankee versus foreigner, Irish versus Italian, Norwegian versus Polish, black versus white, or Chicane versus Anglo. The stereotypes by which one group describes another have surely been learned to a significant extent in the schools, and, given the different economic and social conditions out of which youngsters come, some of these stereotypical qualities may well have been empirically confirmed. Immigrant children from apartments without an adequate water supply may indeed have smelled bad in comparison to well-scrubbed children from relatively luxurious homes, and children from a ghetto are forced to engage in physical combat earlier and more freely than are children from well policed middle-class suburbs. Further, there may well be a fairly primitive, and early emerging, tendency for human beings to perceive the unexpected and different as bad, or at least threatening. Hence it could be expected that the mere placing of children with different cultures, habits, and life conditions in the same classroom could reinforce negative stereotyping as well as it could generate feelings of mutual trust and affection. It would appear that the recently federally coerced integration of schools has, at least in the short run, as often increased racial tension and hostility among youth as it has decreased such tension. We confront the paradox: "to know a person thoroughly is to love him" but "familiarity breeds contempt." Yet over the decades, literally millions of Americans have in the school made deep and lasting friendships with people from very different social groups. As ethnic consciousness grows, some Americans are almost embarrassed to admit that they did build such friendships; they did, nonetheless.

Moreover, though association does not ensure the growth of mutual trust and affection, indeed though it sometimes prevents that growth, I find it very hard to conceive how such mutual trust can come into being in the absence of concrete interpersonal action. To me, the case for the common school, and hence for integration, lies precisely here. I agree with Horace Mann that such a school is desirable. Like it or not, we share a common turf with people of many origins and customs. We can occupy that turf in perpetual guerrilla warfare, as several armed camps, or as mutually supportive groups, each of whose life is enriched by that which we can offer to and share with our neighbors. The options are real; groups of enemies have occupied and can occupy a common geographical area for centuries. One can deal with an enemy as long as a reasonable balance of physical power is maintained. Groups of strangers can also, with a modicum of compromise, occupy a single turf. But to be estranged from all human cultures except one's own, or to be an enemy of groups with different cultures, is to be estranged or at war with what are obviously human potentialities and, therefore, to participate in less than full humanity. Since I cannot choose that alternative, I am compelled to struggle for the creation of mutual understanding, trust, sharing, and affection which transcend differing values and habits of behavior. Such an objective demands interaction, and the potential for that interaction yielding the attitudes I want to prevail is greatest if the interaction occurs early in the life of a child and is reasonably intense and long-lived.

If one is committed for these ends to a common school, then one must consider the conditions under which association builds positive rather than negative inter-group attitudes. Ultimately this comes down to our public philosophy and to a philosophy which is internalized and consistently served by behavior rather than by mere verbal assertion.

Horace Mann, and his compatriots, were simply unable to conceive a workable pluralistic philosophy. They easily saw that sectarian dogmatism yielded only incessant conflict; they could not see that perhaps the dogmatism rather than the sectarianism was at fault. Hence they thought to define a non-sectarian dogma which would transcend the issues dividing the sects, political parties, and economic groups. But of course the entire Christian tradition -- Catholic and Protestant alike -- has been catholic in the sense that each group had perceived itself as defining those values which were universal and which therefore transcended the petty issues which divide men.

For example, during Mann's adult career, Alexander and Thomas Campbell founded a sect called the Disciples of Christ which later joined with the Christian sect founded by James O'Kelley and others. The objective was to get back to the "essential truths" of Christianity and thus to transcend divisive denominational conflicts by stressing the common elements of Christianity. Such movements to transcend sectarianism quickly became sects. Mann and his associates simply could not see that in defining a particular dogmatic blend of Unitarianism, "republican morality," nationalism, and natural religion, they were behaving exactly as the founders of all subsects of the Christian community had behaved. Each had thought to get back to the essential common elements of a universal religion.

Cultural Pluralism To note this behavior and this failure is not to set the philosophers of the common school apart for criticism. Few Americans now, and perhaps even fewer in the days of Horace Mann, can live with the degree of cultural relativism required genuinely to affirm that behavior and values repulsive to "us" are nevertheless morally justifiable for "them." The capacity for non-judgmental, positive regard for someone very different from ourselves is small in most of us. Still I think we must strive to expand that capacity if we wish to avoid the error of attempting to make all children fit a particular subcultural ideal and at the same time teach each to respect and profit from the distinctive offerings of subcultures other than his own.

I have always found Horace Mann somewhat obnoxious. As I read his orations he frankly strikes me as having been pompous, self-righteous, and sometimes downright boring. This is partly because my ear is not attuned to the rhetorical style of his era. But I don't share some of his values, and I resent the implicit argument that people with his values should use the force of law and the power of the school to remake me and my children in his image. Moreover, with hindsight, I find him incredibly naive both with respect to his faith in the power of schooling and the ease with which he believes human values and behavior can be shaped. However, on reading Messerli's biography of Horace Mann, and therefore being returned to the struggles he endured for the common school, I find myself recalling a moving essay by Carl Lotus Becker.

As World War II drew ominously close, Becker, long a critic of American culture and a skeptic about moralistic pronouncements, was moved to write an essay entitled "Some Generalities that Still Glitter." He noted that for centuries men in the Western world had spoken emotionally and loudly in behalf of such glittering generalities as freedom, democracy, justice, brotherhood, and love, while still enslaving, exploiting, cheating, discriminating, and hating. So great, he said, was the disparity between words and actions that many became deeply cynical about the verbalized ideal. And yet, he argued, if these ideals have not achieved reality, it is still a measure of progress, and of their value, that we have come to use them as categories by which to judge our own and others' behavior. Though we kill, we fault ourselves and others for killing, which has not always been so. Though we enslave, we condemn ourselves and others for enslaving, while in other times and places men have not so judged. Though we hate, we seek to transcend hatred, while in other times and places some have glorified it.

Many are now bitterly critical of the public schools and cynical about their too rarely delivered promises. We describe the aspirations of such men as Horace Mann as illusory, and we view those who enunciate and pretend to believe in such aspirations as at best naive fools and at worse as knaves. And yet, vide Carl Becker, we judge them precisely by the standards which they taught us better to understand and to affirm. Because public schools do not provide equality of opportunity, we condemn those who taught us to wish the schools would do so; because we do not achieve brotherhood in the schools, we again condemn those who asserted that brotherhood was a proper objective of schooling. We believe, as Horace Mann taught us to believe, that school boards should be responsive to the total community, and we blame those who taught us so to believe for the failure of school governors to so respond.

Naive by our lights, ignorant as are all men in the sight of later generations, self-interested, sometimes bigoted, limited in talent as well as wisdom, the founding fathers of our public schools were indeed. Still they enunciated some generalities that still glitter, at least for me. Corny as it is, I confess still to being moved by the final paragraph of Mann's July 4,1842 address to the people of Boston:

Pour out light and trust, as God pours sunshine and rain. No longer seek knowledge as the luxury of a few, but dispense it amongst all as the bread of life. Learn only how the ignorant may learn; how the innocent may be preserved; the vicious reclaimed. Call down the astronomer from the skies; call up the geologist from his subterranean exploration; summon, if need be, the mightiest intellects from the Council Chamber of the Nation; enter the cloistered halls, where the scholiast muses over superfluous annotations; dissolve conclave and synod, where subtle polemics are vainly discussing their barren dogmas; collect whatever of talent, or erudition or eloquence, or authority, the broad land can supply, and go forth, and TEACH THIS PEOPLE.



Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 74 Number 3, 1973, p. 423-436
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 1526, Date Accessed: 5/27/2022 6:18:47 PM

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About the Author
  • Merle Borrowman
    University of California at Berkeley
    Merle L. Borrowman is Dean of the School of Education of the University of California at Berkeley.
 
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