Education And The Second Great Awakening

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In the year 1730, the first Great Awakening had struck the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain. Christianity was revived as many actions led to the newfound dedication to religion. The movement spanned over the next decade and half, then was halted. Thirty-five years later birthed what we consider as the Second Great Awakening in sequence from the first. The second movement lasted much longer than the first, spanning from 1790, and even into the new century until 1840. This Great Awakening saw many movements during the period, but more importantly, had paved the way for future movements and reforms by its influence. With such way was shown through Horace Mann’s educational reform.

Life as a child was certainly not easy in the 19th Century. It wasn’t a common luxury to have the opportunity to attend a school. Children were sought as the most inexpensive form of labor. Horace Mann, a state senate member and Whig, was the leader of a movement that looked to end child labor and order children to be put in schools instead. Mann’s movements and ideas gained lots of attention as well as lots of opposition. Mann believed in a secular education, as well as being in support of women’s rights and against slavery. Horace Mann’s views made people against him, leading to his career in politics being threatened.

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The idea of a non-religious school in the time of the Second Great Awakening shows how opposed many were. Horace Mann had been influenced majorly by the Second Great Awakening by seeing the mass movements displayed. Mann was a religious man but saw no ample reason to make a school preach a religion under a nation with a freedom from religion. Mann would then establish common schools, otherwise known as a public school. These schools would contain kids of the same economic background and religion. The Second Great Awakening had shown to be much different from the first, being that the first contained a bigger role with the religion in politics, and the second leaning toward the individual beliefs within the people such as women’s rights.

Politicians had feared that the American education system was failing and that the men obtaining a right to vote would result in issues concerning the illiteracy of the men. They feared radical decisions would be made and overall leading to a possible failure of the country. Horace Mann’s adoption of common schools granted and opportunity to the young males. He had believed that the common schools would bring an end the ignorant children by opening a door to them they merely had just not seen. His movement made it possible for kids from poor backgrounds to be placed in a school rather than a farm or factory. The teachers that were put in his establishments were to be professionals, as he only expected the best.

The Second Great Awakening’s movements in women’s rights and slavery played an impact. The social reform began to convey a much brighter, more equal tone than that of the first. Women began to become more frequent in public roles. Women were still looked at as inferior to the male, however. The awakening sparked light under the discussion, however. Women’s groups were made, making it known as the first ever movement of women’s suffrage. Women also used the Second Great Awakening to become closer to their religion. At the time, women were seen converting much more frequent than the men. This is said to the women possibly looking at the religious actions as a chance to get out the house.

The growing presence of women fueled the growth of teachers for the common schools. Horace Mann saw the women being a great option as a teacher for the children considering what their responsibilities were during 18 and 19th Century. Howard Mann made it a part of his campaign that the women would be included as well. Due to the women’s role of educational reform, the men worried that the education would cause their wives to rebel against them. Even further, the farmers and factories had feared that the kids attending school rather than being a laborer would possibly leave their laboring job. Essentially, the businesses feared that they would no longer make much more profit due to the children’s labor being much cheaper than a man’s labor. The exploitation of the children was sought as the norm, but soon owners grew angry at the workers as some were simply too unintelligent to show any kind of quality work. This was when Horace Mann stepped in.

The Second Great Awakening’s idea of “awakening” those in less fortunate societies was responsible for that of an anti-slavery movement as well. Christianity was shown to African Americans and black churches were also established. The northern states movements were that of abolitionists, and those in the south being for the cause of slavery. The events of the Second Great Awakening are what sparked the tone for the Civil War. Northern states had movements calling for reform, going against slavery and supporting their freedoms. The southern states believed that slavery was in fact, stated in the Bible as activity that is acceptable. Around the early times of the movement was Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. This clause ordered that slaves working outside of their residing state required passes, and that those who were considered escapees are to be returned to their slave owner in their home state. The slaves were to then be punished as well as anyone who helped them in their escape.

Freedoms were beginning to be tested during this period. Slaves would begin to see hope in a possible freedom, as well as women seeing a possibility of receiving rights. The majorities’ beliefs at the time were seen that it was part of their religion to improve their life and that the idea of religion would help reform their society. The northerners saw slavery as a great evil and they pushed for a reform, and the southerners simply saw no wrong in their actions. The Great Awakening’s ideas sparked a feud between the two sides of the country, but nonetheless, inspired a reform.

Multiple movements were inspired by the Awakening, that being the temperance movement as well. The Second Great Awakening sparked a decline in alcoholism. The movement was inspired through the idea of self-improvement and the public stressing the dangers of alcoholism by insisting on it damaging the outlook of the American people. A common misconception of the temperance movement was that alcohol was still consumed. The movement looked more towards improving themselves due to their view as seeing it simply as a sin and not morally right.

The three large movements conveyed throughout the span of the Second Great Awakening had set up movements to last all the until the next century. Women would later obtain rights over time, slavery would soon be abolished, and the Temperance movement will later turn to a Prohibition and become what it is now. These reforms played a huge socially in forming and molding the American society today. The three big reforms occurring in the Second Great Awakening all shared one common thing: They all included some sort of social reform. This time period of social reformation paved the way and opened the doors for the education system and improve the way of living in more ways than what most thought of at the time.

Horace Mann led a movement not only inspired by the second awakening, but also used these other movements in slavery and women’s rights a key point in his campaigns. Not only was education more prevalent in the north, so was money. At the time before Mann, education was only for the wealthy families. After Horace Mann’s death in 1859, public elementary school was now free, and the United States would boast a massive improvement in English literacy. Mann’s movements would eventually pave the way for education to the black children after the Civil War.

The Second Great Awakening opened many doors for the American people by stressing to those for social reform essentially calling for an improvement to the American society. The overall educational reform was nonetheless inspired by Second Great Awakening through its widespread call for social justice as it was believed that it was a God-given right to improve the society of those who worship. Without the Second Great Awakening, there wouldn’t be a drive for reform.


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