The Common School Movement

Themes to frame the Common School Movement


Three Distinct Features of the Common School Movement ~ 1840’s -1870’s

  1. To educate all children in a common schoolhouse to create a common culture and reduce social-class conflict
  2. To use schooling to improve public morality, end crime and poverty and provide equality of opportunity
  3. To create state agencies to control local schools


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) — Local vs. State vs. Federal control of education

Horace Mann & the leader of the Common School idea

Men are cast-iron; but children are wax — Horace Mann

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The Common School:  Horace Mann and a common Protestant education

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An eighteenth-century English primer for “memorizing the alphabet and learning prayers”


Taxes to pay for public education:  The working class and the upper classes make for strange “bedfellows.” The upper class opposed taxes for public schooling.

The working class opposed taxes for public schooling



The Common School and Catholicism — Famous 1876 editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast depicting Roman Catholic bishops as crocodiles attacking public schools, with the connivance of Irish Catholic politicians

Roberts v. City of Boston
The Desegregation of Schools in the 1850’s. In the 1840s Benjamin Roberts of Boston began a legal campaign to enroll his five-year-old daughter, Sarah, in a nearby school for whites


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