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Activity Two: Discussion questions after reading

After reading from the Horace Mann links below, ask students these questions. Pick questions appropriate for the level of students. You may wish to supplement these materials with current events. We've supplied federal Department of Education and education journal sites for this purpose.

  • What do you think Mann meant when he said public education would increase the wealth of individuals, communities, the state and the country as a whole, while teaching respect for private property?
  • How does a good education promote a more egalitarian and democratic society?
  • Why is public education seen as the most successful progressive social ideal in American history?
  • What does this quote mean? "Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men, - the balance wheel of the social machinery. I do not here mean that it so elevates the moral nature as to make men disdain and abhor the oppression of their fellow men. This idea pertains to another of its attributes. But I mean that it gives each man the independence and the means by which he can resist the selfishness of other men."
  • What do you think Mann would feel about the following proposals? How do you feel about them?

                    Allow students to drop out when they feel like it
                    Pay students to stay in school
                    Have students take classes at home
                    Make students work their way through high school
                    Force students to graduate
                    Make the parents of troubled students attend school with them
                    Use corporeal punishment for those who don't want to learn
                    Make school easier and don't give homework

  • What did Mann mean about the following:

                    Equal opportunity for all?
                    Social harmony?
                    Schools are the "great equalizer?"

  • Why did Mann believe education would reduce crime?
  • Why did Mann want a longer school year, with a six-month minimum?
  • Why did he believe having well educated teachers benefits students?


Try the following higher level thinking statements.

  • Taxes pay for public schools. Is there a relationship between having everyone pay for schools and what Mann felt resulted in the educational process -- social harmony?
  • Mann wrote education equips students to be part of a self-governing people. How does this relate to required classes like history, civics and social studies?
  • Mann published an article that stated, "Intelligence is Primary Ingredient in the Wealth of Nations." What did he mean?
  • Mann wrote a school should be filled with students who reflect the community. In that way they can learn from and about each other and maintain common values. If this is true, what happens when students go to a school without a mix of students?
  • Mann was the great seeker. What does that mean?
  • What would happen if there were no public schools?