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    The School and Prison Reform 1800s

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    The fundamental learning conditions in schools prior to the Industrial Revolutions was a large issue threatening society. Education was limited to rich white males along the thirteen colonies in the United States. In prisons, women, children, and the mentally ill were stripped from their lives treated with inhumane methods. While many Catholics were opposed, the reform movements established by Dorothea Dix and Horace Mann in the mid 1800s attempted to reduce violence and crime, establish equal rights, and provide better conditions across America’s prisons and schools.

    In the beginning of 1837, Horace Mann’s, a previous Representative of Massachusetts House took control of the Massachusetts Board of Education. This was the pivotal turning point in education and the freedoms and restrictions within schools. Manns would publish in 1838, The Common School Journal (Lumen).

    In this journal, Mann’s targeted the problems of public schools (Movement). He felt passionate about creating a more widespread school board. His experience in school was limited as ‘ he attended school only 10 weeks a year. The rest of the time, he had to work on the family farm”(Movement). This was major influence for him to create change. Other issues within school programs lied in restrictions and religion.

    An ongoing issue was early public-school curriculum was based on strict Calvinism and concentrated on teaching moral values. The goal in broadening the restrictions would be to separate religion from school and having a more inclusive setting for children.

    Despite the improvements within many schools; throughout the country was extreme poverty for many families. This prevented an extensive number of kids from attending school. Through sponsoring, Hanns was able to create statewide curriculum that by 1870 reached all fifty states. Common; or public school would be funded by local taxes and had free tuition (Flooden).

    Further improvements were made and more people attended school. But, there were still children living in rural areas, which until the 1880s did not have many schools implaced (Lumen). Change was slowly being constructed to help children. It is also became mandatory for teachers to be properly trained and to be paid higher salaries. These problems and solution crossed over into many collages.

    Colleges in the early 1800s were extremely sparse; African Americans and women were not able to have the opportunities of white men. Although, changes were happening when Oberlin College in Ohio in 1833 was the first coeducational school allowing women in the school to have higher education and be open to more opportunity (Education). Out of this reform began many others including the prison reform movement.

    Along with schools, prisons were gaining more attention for there bad notably environments for criminals. Prisons before the reform of were not healthy environments, and many would come out worse than when they arrived. Inmates were regularly caged and chained, often in places like cellars and closets (Dorothea Lynde Dix).

    The prison reform took many steps in separating the mentally ill from real criminals and attempted rehabilitation for those suffering with mental illnesses. Many experts believe punishment is needed, but it’s important to evaluate the length sentences, and how inmates should be treated. It was even stated by researchers that, “They believe that the threat of prison does not increase public safety” (Lumen). Other threats were that the population of people had an influence on crime rates and poverty.

    During the early 1800s, the populations of cities had grown rapidly. This led to an increase in the number of poor people. These increases brought a rise in crime and a swelling of the prison population. This consequently led to more people wanting harsh punishment for these prisoners. Therefor the three strike law was implemented, others believed in is what to the called the Auburn system (Lumen). This system forced prisoners to work together in silence and sleep in solitary cells at night. The conditions were unfair, but an the activist, Dorothea Dix would later come and help make change.

    Dorothea Dix was a prevalent face of this movement, searching for ways to improve the states of the prisons during that time. At the time it was believed that if punishment for commiting crimes was harsh, it would prevent those from not doing it again. In 1842 Dorothea Dix offered to teach Sunday school at the nearby jail.

    There, Dix would witness the mistreatments, and she began the movement to create safer and better environments for the prisoners. Dix demanded that “legislature of Massachusetts, demanding that officials take action toward reform”(Dorothea Lynde Dix.). This was the beginning of change for the prisoners and a start for even more changes in treatment of criminals.

    Past the treatment within prisons, the life after prison if it happened often was not sustainable. When family members returned from prison without gaining money, they would have nothing to contribute, and be in debt the remainder of their lives. In 1830s, the United States begin to abolish debtors’ prisons (Lynch). Thus furthering improving the lives of criminals after prison.

    The movements begun by Dorothea Dix and Horace Mann’s was a change in not only the treatment of children, specifically poor families and criminals, but the view on mental health as well. It made many research and educate themselves on these topics to further improve society as a whole.

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    The School and Prison Reform 1800s. (2021, Sep 21). Retrieved from

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