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Week Three: History Of Education, EDCI 506-02

Posted by on September 15, 2013

The Common School Movement was a movement based on defining and shaping the American life, starting with inequality in schools. The Common School Movement started in 1770 and went to 1890. It was founded by Horance Mann and was originally intended for privileged white children and was funded by local property taxes to provide a change and allow all children to attend school regardless of their social class. The Dame School was governed by local school communities and charged no property taxes. According to the PBS video, the Common School period was between 1840-1880 (Episode 1). The school served as a great equalizer and ultimately resulted in the reduction in poverty and crime rates. Episode 1 explained to its viewers that The Common School served as a solid education, which might enable women when they become mothers to educate their own daughters and even to direct the course for their sons. Schools also encouraged white boys to attend Latin Grammar School once they completed The Dame School. During this time, it was mainly boys that they targeted, for women would move on to maintaining a household. They tended to favor boys over girls and our video touched on the fact that The Common School would charge parental fees to supplement the town’s support.

In the South, The Common School was a private matter and was not a concern of the state, according to the PBS video. It focused on the idea that “knowledge is power”. This idea followed closely with laws that were passed forbidding education of slaves and their families. Episode 1 clearly states that it was risky business for slaves to practice the act of learning and would often hide books and other materials under their knitting utensils. During this era, we see a strong divide between social and economic classes.  The whole idea of The Common School Movement was to break this barrier and to provide a fair education for the underprivileged white boys and ultimately lead to what we now call our “diverse public schools.”

The Common School Movement was a major step in America. It provided us the necessary progressions to be where we are today. From starting with schools that students were only accepted if they were wealthy, to now having equal school rights for every child. We are honored to say that this movement paved a way to having equal opportunities for all students. I am extremely grateful for what it did for America and amazed that one movement could accomplish all of that.


Lemann N., (2010). The history of American education 1770-1890 part 1. School: The Story of American Education. PBS.

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