August 22, 2019 | Nancy Huff
It was a horrible sermon, one no family should ever have to hear. It was bad enough they had just laid their young son to rest in a nearby grave; today they listened as the minister told the congregation of the flames that engulfed the young Stephen as he languished in hell. Stephen had played hooky from school and while horsing around, drowned in a nearby pond. The Mann family held their dignity throughout the service, but forever the course of history was changed by the minister’s words. Stephen’s brother, Horace Mann, never forgave the preacher and later rejected the idea of original sin and salvation to embrace the new thought of the day which was Enlightenment, a belief that man is a god. Mann would go on to start the first public schools in America financed with taxpayer money. His accomplishments would earn him the title: Father of Public Education. Mann’s religion would influence millions of America’s children for generations to come and ultimately change the course of this nation.
School is starting all across the nation and God is calling us to pray. For the past six months or more, God has been impressing upon the IFA staff the vital necessity of praying for the public schools: students, Christian educators, and the many legal Christian ministries at work in the public schools. Don’t miss this critical time of prayer for our nation’s most important mission field and our nation’s most critical missionaries. Call (712)775-7430 (no code needed), or join us on Facebook LIVE.
In 1834, the people of Massachusetts elected Horace to as a state senator. Three years later, he helped establish America’s first State Board of Education in Massachusetts. One year later, he assumed the leadership of the Board. While running for the Senate, he had made a campaign promise to the Unitarians, who were unhappy with the current school choices of Catholic or Protestant. Would he establish schools with no religious teaching and fund them with taxpayer money? As the chairman of the Board of Education, Mann fulfilled his promise.
In his search for model schools, Mann looked to the enlightened schools of Europe. He particularly admired the Prussian (German) school system. In 1843, he made a trip abroad at his own expense to observe new curriculum and teaching methods in Europe and Prussia. On his return home, he convinced the Massachusetts Board of Education to adopt the Prussian teaching methods in the newly established American schools.
The first public schools in Massachusetts opened in 1843, and subsequent schools began to pop up all across the East. As Americans moved West, Mann embraced the idea of Manifest Destiny and considered it a God-given right and duty to spread the “religion” of education westward. After all, religion was not needed, but education was. Horace Mann and Catherine Beecher solicited female teachers to join in the movement. By calling them “teacher missionaries,” Mann and Beecher tapped into the zeal of young Christian women to share the love of God with the unreached and unlearned. Teaching, for women, was the equivalent of being in the ministry. Women by the thousands accepted the call to go to remote and difficult areas in the West where they often lived in substandard conditions, taught in makeshift schools, accepted salaries less than 1/3rd of their male counterparts, and dealt with classrooms of children ages five to eighteen—all under one roof. A teacher’s reward was not heaven, but in personal satisfaction that came from serving others.
It took nearly 130 years to reach Horace Mann’s dream of schools separated from any teaching of a personal God. Why did it take so long? Our forefathers came to America for the expressed purpose—so they could be free to worship a personal God according to the dictates of one’s conscience. For generations, those founding principles were taught by Christian teachers in our classrooms. Biblically-based moral teaching changed in the mid-1960s as lawsuits on school prayer and Bible reading yielded rulings from the highest court of our nation, the Supreme Court. Teachers and administrators, often godly people, fearful of arrests and lawsuits became silent in the classrooms. At that point, America’s education changed as well as America. History reveals public school education at its inception was off to a skewed start.
About the Author: Nancy Huff is an educator with a mission to equip believers to pray strategically for the Cultural Mountain of Education. She has authored Taking the Mountain of Education: A Strategic Prayer Guide to Transform America’s Schools. She leads prayer groups to pray at key educational locations across the US. Currently, Nancy serves as the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network (HAPN) Lead Prayer Coordinator for the Mountain of Education. For additional information go to: https://takingthemountainofeducation.com/author/nancyahuff/