Horace Mann's Universal Education System

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Horace Mann, the United States’ first Secretary of Education, argued that universal education is necessary for society to continue to advance. Since knowledge is infinitely diffusible, providing education to everyone should give all children equal opportunities to succeed and contribute to the advancement of society. In practice, universal education does not equally prepare children to succeed because cultural and economic capital are already unequally distributed in society, and children start school with varying amounts of each. In order to achieve Mann’s goal of a universal education system that prepares each child equally, all public schools should receive equal funding. Children are not all equally prepared to succeed because they enter…show more content…
Samuel Bowles argues that schools serve to socialize children into their place in society and that in doing so they reproduce the existing class structures. He posits that the differences in cultural capital (which he refers to as class subculture) of each socioeconomic class are produced by the different child rearing strategies used by parents of different classes and then reinforced by differences in the schools attended by children of different classes. For instance, “the children of managers and professionals are taught self-reliance…[while] the children of production line workers are taught obedience” (Bowles 146). Poor schools cannot support many electives or individualized learning and their lack of adequate funding “precludes the amounts of free time for the teachers and free space required for a more open, flexible educational environment” that upper class schools can offer and which socialize their students for the type of independent work associated with higher level positions in the workforce (143). Ensuring equal funding for all schools would help to oppose the reinforcement of the class subculture that students acquire outside of school from a young age by reducing the differential socialization that occurs in schools as a result of their differential funding. Since school funding and resources are not the only factors that contribute to differential socialization, in order to induce rapid change, equality in school funding for kids with differing economic and cultural capital would need to be paired with equality in the expectations that teachers and administrators have for students based on their capital. Bowles suggests that even this might not be sufficient to create equality in education, writing, “if education is to compensate for social class immobility due to the inheritance of wealth and privilege, education

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