Who Invented School?

As ubiquitous as school might seem today, the idea of grouping students together for teaching developed over the course of history. Formal schools operated in ancient Greece, Rome, India, and China. Many credit the Byzantine Empire with the establishment of organized primary schooling. Primary school in this system started around 425 AD and continued even as the empire began to crumble. The school system emphasized the study of war manuals and existed until just after 1450 AD.

Islam has combined religion and education for centuries, offering learning activities in mosques, and later in he Madrassa. The schooling offered in the Madrassa was the first public domain school system that fell under the control of the Caliph. This is considered to be the earliest surviving school. It was during the rule of the Ottomans hat the system of Kulliye came into being. This was a complex featuring a mosque, a hospital, a madrassa, and a public kitchen and eating area. Free meals and healthcare were offered through the system, as well as occasional accommodations. Today, this concept is still seen in boarding schools (though not offered for free) and loosely in some public schools with education, a small medical treatment area, and a cafeteria.

In the United States many schools began as one-room school houses where one teach taught boys and girls of different ages in the same environment. These schools were consolidated into multiple classroom building during the 1920s. Children were transported from their homes to these multi-classroom buildings by busses.

Horace Mann

Many people credit Horace Mann as he father of the modern school system. Mann was appointed secretary of the Massachusetts School Board System and believed public education to be the best tool for grooming citizens. He felt a common learning experience was beneficial to children and provided an opportunity for those lower on the socio-economic scale to advance in life. His ideas concerning the development of schools were viewed favorably by the early labor movement, who supported not only the education students would receive, but also the discipline and moral training that would prepare hem for life in the working world. Mann spent time in Europe studying the school systems and bringing many of the ideas to the United States.

Mann established a school system in Massachusetts, including a program called “normal school” to train teachers of future students. He received support from political figures, including those in the Whig Party, and most states created some version of Mann’s concept. However, not everyone believed Mann’s theories were helpful. Some schoolmasters and church figures disapproved of the lack of religious lessons taught in the schools. Though the idea was not all his own, Horace Mann is often credited as the inventor of school.

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