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Horace Mann

Horace Mann, a pioneer in Public Education in America, was born on May 4, 1796, in Franklin, Massachusetts. Graduating from Brown University in 1819, he taught there for two years, studied law, and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1823. He entered the Massachusetts legislature in 1827 and served there for ten years, first as representative and then senator. In 1837, he was secretary to the newly created Massachusetts Board of Education. He resigned from the legislature, withdrew from his legal practice, and devoted himself to his new position for the next decade. He found the public schools to be in deplorable state and worked to improve the buildings and the teachers who worked in them. He founded the "normal school" system in Massachusetts, which developed better prepared teachers. From 1848 to 1853, Mann served in Congress, taking the seat left empty upon the death of John Quincy Adams. There he continued legislative efforts on behalf of public education. He also spoke on the subject of Henry Clay's compromise resolutions in 1850. In a speech that he gave on February 15 of that year, he foreshadowed many of the arguments that Lincoln would use in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858. Afterwards, he undertook the presidency of the newly established Antioch College in Ohio, in which capacity he served almost until his death on August 2, 1859. Horace Mann campaigned effectively for the principle that every child should be provided with an education at public expense. His insistence on the nonsectarian nature of that education put him at odds with many church leaders, who objected to the "godless" education that Mann recommended.