October 19, 1849 (Friday)

Unpleasant sort of weather.

Attended the Convention on the subject of common schools.  It was very interesting, very well attended and conducted with unusual harmony and good feeling.

The Common School Movement began in New England in the 1830s and called for more government involvement in the education of its children. The aim was universal education.  Horace Mann (1796–1859), often considered the Father of the Common School Movement, was the chief, but certainly not the only notable proponent of the movement (for example, Catharine Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sister, developed and ran an important school for women teachers). Mann, the first Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, believed educated children were better citizens, more productive, less apt to be a drain on society, and were better republicans (lowercase ‘r’ intensional).

The National Convention in Philadelphia took place October 18–19 and was held at the Athenæum of Philadelphia, then as now on South Sixth Street across from Washington Square. Horace Mann was in attendance as was Joseph Henry, Secretary of the nascent Smithsonian Institute, Edward Everett, former governor of Massachusetts and future opening act for Abraham Lincoln at the consecration of the Gettysburg Cemetery, Bishop Alonzo Potter and many other movement leaders from around the country. As was common with conventions of this sort, there were many committee reports and much speechifying.  Women teachers were singled out for high praise and were deemed indispensable to the future success of the movement.  Their low pay was universally bemoaned.

Of course, the movement eventually succeeded.  By the end of the nineteenth century, all states had a system of mandatory public schooling.


“Common School Movement – Colonial and Republican Schooling, Changes in the Antebellum Era, The Rise of the Common School.” Education Encyclopedia – StateUniversity.com http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/1871/Common-School-Movement.html. Accessed 17 October 2011.

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