Horace Mann (May 4, 1796 – August 2, 1859) was an American educational reformer and Whig politician known for his commitment to promoting public education. A central theme of his life was that “it is the law of our nature to desire happiness. This law is not local, but universal; not temporary, but eternal. It is not a law to be proved by exceptions, for it knows no exception.” He served in the Massachusetts State legislature (1827–1837). In 1848, after public service as Secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, Mann was elected to the United States House of Representatives (1848–1853). From September 1852 to his death, he served as President of Antioch College.
About Mann’s intellectual progressivism, the historian Ellwood P. Cubberley said:
No one did more than he to establish in the minds of the American people the conception that education should be universal, non-sectarian, free, and that its aims should be social efficiency, civic virtue, and character, rather than mere learning or the advancement of sectarian ends.
Arguing that universal public education was the best way to turn unruly American children into disciplined, judicious republican citizens, Mann won widespread approval from modernizers, especially in the Whig Party, for building public schools. Most states adopted a version of the system Mann established in Massachusetts, especially the program for normal schools to train professional teachers. Educational historians credit Horace Mann, along with Henry Barnard and Catherine Beecher as one of the major advocates of the Common School Movement.