Horace Mann: The Bible in Public Schools

Did you know that it was the state of Massachusetts in 1852 that inaugurated the first statewide compulsory school system? By 1918, every state had compulsory attendance laws, with the idea that public schools provide a religiously “neutral” education for students. Horace Mann advocated for compulsory education as the first secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, and is considered the father of American public education.

His curriculum featured the Bible as a tool to teach “moral character, Judeo-Christian values, and responsible, virtuous citizenship.” Mann also believed that the Bible should be taught without doctrine or theology. He said, “Our system allows it to do what it is allowed to do in no other system—to speak for itself. But here it stops.”

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