Chapter

Conclusion: The Great Equalizer?

in Schooling Citizens

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226542492
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226542515 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226542515.003.0008
Conclusion: The Great Equalizer?

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Horace Mann's assertion that common schools could foster economic mobility and civic harmony continues to inform American expectations for public schools. If, as Mann argued, common schools could knit citizens together, they could exclude others just as easily. White northerners opposed African Americans' efforts to claim citizenship in the context of a society still marked by slavery. They did this by enacting anti-education statutes in Connecticut and enforcing de facto school segregation in Massachusetts, expelling a proposed African college from New Haven, and demolishing an integrated academy in Canaan, New Hampshire. Despite Mann's assertion that education was the great equalizer, the power of racism in antebellum America and the inequitable structures that it created also prevented many black people from deriving a vocational benefit from their literary instruction. In the end, African American parents, teachers, students, and activists were more concerned with their own ability to educate themselves in the face of indifference and hostility and less with whether public schools were actually the great equalizers Mann claimed they could be.

Keywords: Horace Mann; common schools; African Americans; public schools; citizenship; slavery; school segregation; racism; education; New Haven

Chapter.  2698 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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