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State-Supported Common Schools (1820-1865)

State-Supported Common Schools (1820-1865)

Module 2.4


State supported common schools was not a very popular idea. Those in favor tended to be city residents and nontaxpayers, democratic leaders, and the working people. Those who opposed were rural residents, taxpayers, members of old aristocratic and conservative groups,owners of private schools, members of conservative religious sects, and Southerners. The first state-supported high school in the United States was established in 1821. It was called Boston English Classical School.

Horace Mann

Horace Mann (1796-1859) was a well known spokesperson for common schools. He was a lawyer, Massachusetts senator, and the first secretary of a state board of education. He is best known for his fight for the common school movement.

During the late 1830's, Mann felt that teachers needed more than a high school education in order to teach. He and other influential educators such as Catherine Beecher (1800-1878), felt that teachers needed a formal education. Beecher, whose sister, Harreit Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin,campaigned to make certain that women had the same education as men. She contributed significantly to the development of publicly funded schools for training teachers. The first normal school opened in 1839. Massachusetts established a system of common schools and other states soon followed.

McGuffey's Readers

Reverend William Holmes Mcguffey(1800-1873) created the Mcguffey readers which emphasized hard work, honesty, truth, charity, and obedience. This series had a great impact on what children learned. These books had a religious, moral and ethical influence millions of American children. These readers taught both children and adults how to read.

Morril Land-Grant Act

An 1862 act that provided federal land that states could sell or rent to raise funds to establish colleges of agriculture and mechanical arts. This was sponsored by Congressman Justin S. Morrill (1810-1898). This act set a president for the federal government to take an active role in the progress of higher education.


Please label this 2.5 Common Education For All?

Some people have suggested eliminating compulsory education beyond the eighth grade to prevent high-school students who do not want to be in school from disrupting the education of others. What do you think about such a measure? What types of schools would be designed for the remaining students? What alternatives (if any) should be provided for those who left?



Common Schools-free state-supported schools that provide education for all students.

Normal Schools-schools that focus on the preparation of teachers.

Mcguffey Readers-an immensely popular series of reading books for students in grades one through six, written in the 1830's by Reverend William Holmes Mcguffey.

Morril Land -Grant Act-an 1862 act that provided federal land that states could sell or rent to raise funds to establish colleges of agriculture and mechanical arts


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