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Unpublished Paper
The Lyman Beecher Family and Their Influence on the Common School Movement
  • Samuel J. Smith
In his 2013 book Founding Zealots: How Evangelicals Created America’s First Public Schools, Thomas A. Hagedorn argued that Horace Mann’s status as the “Father of the Common School Movement” is a myth.   Hagedorn reframed the narrative, and—instead of individuals—he placed in the leading roles philosophical thought, political trends, religious revivals, and doctrinal developments.  Hagedorn indeed highlighted individuals, such as Samuel Lewis, Calvin Stowe, Lyman Beecher, William McGuffey, and many others, but he turned the spotlight primarily to the influence that Christianity had on the development of the common schools.  The purpose of this paper is to explore further the doctrinal beliefs of the Lyman Beecher family and how those beliefs served as impetus for their reform activities.  As James W. Fraser noted, the Beecher family was extremely active in a variety of social reforms, education being just one of many.   This topic is significant today because, in their university teacher preparation programs, many current teacher candidates may be exposed to only part of the story, that Horace Mann started public schools because he wanted to eliminate poverty, crime, and social injustice.  In an effort to represent the Common School Movement more fully, this study will focus specifically on the contributions of the Beecher family and their intent for advocating for common schools.  To that end, a review was conducted of select primary sources and several secondary sources, including books and research journal articles.  Although the focus is on the Lyman Beecher family in general, special attention is given to Lyman’s daughter Catharine. 
  • Catharine Beecher,
  • Lyman Beecher,
  • Common School Movement,
  • Horace Mann
Publication Date
Citation Information
Samuel J. Smith. "The Lyman Beecher Family and Their Influence on the Common School Movement" (2017)
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