Campus Units

Education, School of

Document Type

Book Chapter

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Published Version

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education




The common schools movement was the effort to fund schools in every community with public dollars, and is thus heralded as the start of systematic public schooling in the United States. The movement was begun by Horace Mann, who was elected secretary of the newly founded Massachusetts Board of Education in 1837. Mann and other reformers argued that schools were necessary to inculcate nonsectarian Christian moral values and to educate every citizen to participate in a democracy. This dual mission is sometimes known as the common school movement's “Protestant-republican” ideology. The common schools movement advanced other progressive ideals popular at the time, and was adopted by other states throughout the rest of the 1800s. Schools were free, locally funded and governed, regulated to some degree by the state, and open to all White children.


This chapter is from Marshall, J. M. (2012). Common schools movement. In J. A. Banks (Ed.), Encyclopedia of diversity in education. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. doi: 10.4135/9781452218533.n131. Posted with permission.

Copyright Owner

Sage Publications, Inc.



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