Education Reform 1800-1860

  • Before 1830 only a few states, including Massachusetts, had supported some type of education for many years.
  • From 1820 to 1860: The Antebellum Period, which occured before the Civil War, included the establishment of free, tax-supported public schools.
  • Then in the 1830s the interset of education grew and there was a reform movement to create a system of universal public education.
    • Positive reactions: Middle-class men realized the future of the republic would fall into the hands of the uneducated poor- both immigrant and native-born. Urban workers generally supported the reformers' push for free, tax-supported schools.
    • Southerners, committed to tradtion, were reluctant to support public education. They would see social reform as a northern conspiracy against the southern way of life.
  • The Massachusetts Board of Education was created in 1837.
  • Horace Mann, the first secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, established the first state-supported teachers' college.
  • Mann worked for:
    • improved schools.
    • mandatory student attendance.
    • a longer school year.
    • increased teacher preparation.
  • Mann and his followers believed that education could end the domination of capital and labor.
  • They also believed that it could protect democracy because educated people would be in office.
  • Mann did the following to improve education:
    • reoragnized the Massachusetts school system.
    • extended the school year to six months.
    • doubled teachers' salaries.
    • enriched the curriculum.
    • introduced new teaching methods.
  • Other states also experienced growth in education by building new schools, creating teachers' colleges, and allowing more children to enroll in school.
  • Henry Barnard - helped produce a new educational system in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
  • Pennsylvania improved education by passing a law in 1837 that appropriated state money to education.
  • William Seward - New York Governor that extended support of public schools in the early 1840s.
  • William McGuffey published numerous textbooks that became the basis of reading and moral instruction in many schools.
    • These texts reinforced behaviors needed in an industrial society, including hard work, punctuality, sobriety, and obedience.
  • Education varied between the states:
    • Massachusetts' teachers were highly trained.
    • In other areas, teachers were barely literate.
    • In the West, many children had no access to schools.
    • In the South, Blacks did not have access to formal education. Only a third of white children actually enrolled in schools.
    • In the North, 72% of children were enrolled but did not regularly attend classes.
  • Some reformers thought that Indians could be "civilized" if they were taught the ways of the white people.
  • Beginning in the 1830s, small denominational colleges would be founded in the newer western states (such as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa).
  • Several colleges in Massachusetts and Ohio would begin to admit women.
  • Native Americans in the Far West (near Oregon) were affected by the educational reform.
  • The majority of Native Americans, however, were outside the reach of the educational reform.
  • Roman Catholic groups founded private schools that wrapped around Catholic teachings.
  • The Second Great Awakening helped with founding private colleges.
  • By the time of the Civil War, with 94% of population of the North and 83% of the population in the South, the U.S. had one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
  • Bronson Alcott believed that children were to teach themselves and not rely on the teachers.
  • The Benevolent Empire - the charities that formed institutions to help the handicapped.
    • Thomas Gallaudet founded the first American school for the deaf in Connecticut.
    • Dr. Samuel Howe founded the first school for the blind in 1832, also known as the Perkins School.
  • By the 1850s, special schools for the handicapped sprung out in many states; they reflected the efforts of previous reformers.

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Lyceum Movement

  • A lyceum: A lecture hall; a building/institution used for lectures and discussions.
    • However, the lyceum was not a place; it was an idea.
  • The Lyceum Movement was a public education movement that began around 1825, after the completion of the Erie Canal.
  • It is credited with promoting the establishment of public schools, libraries, and museums in the United States.
  • Josiah Holbrook introduced this movement, and in 1826, set up the first "American Lyceum" in Millbury, Massachusetts.
  • P.T. Barnum was a main contributor to the lyceum success as well.
    • Barnum opened an American Museum in 1842, which had a freak show showcase.
    • In order to gain more visitors, Barnum followed a popular form of entertainment at the time: he held engaging lectures.
  • Lyceum lectures introduced speakers like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Susan B. Anthony to small-town audiences.
    • Abraham Lincoln spoke at the Young Men's Lyceum in 1838; he denounced several harsh actions taken against slaves and a free black man.
    • Frederick Douglass would establish his reputation with the help of this movement.
  • Lecturers would sometimes:
    • explain the latest scientific discoveries.
    • describe their journeys to foreign countries.
    • rant about the evils of slavery or alcohol.
  • Women in particular were interested to attend such events, as they looked for methods to cope with the changes of family life and gender roles.
  • Attendees were expected to be neatly dressed. In addition, no one could leave the hall during the lecture.
  • After the Civil War, the educational role of the lyceum movement was taken over by the Protestant church.
  • Lyceums reflect the lecture system that many universities continue to use today.


Did you know?

  • Josiah Holbrook, the "father" of the Lyceum Movement, named the program for the place (a grove near the temple of Apollo Lyceus) where the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle taught his students.
  • It is estimated that some 13,000 people attended the Lowell lectures in the 1837 - 1838 season alone.
  • During the Civil War, lyceums helped spread ideas about slavery, freedom, and union.
  • A new pseudoscience called phrenology paralled education reformation. People would study the skull's shape to assess a person's character and ability.
  • Today's historians have discovered that many reformers were Whigs, not Jacksonian Democrats.

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