What is the significance of Horace Mann's idea of education being the “great equalizer of the conditions of men”?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mann's basic idea in the quote is the notion that education can serve as a "leveled" playing field in which all of its participants can have some level of equality.  The notion of "the great equalizer" was something that Mann saw in the early, formative days of the United States.  Mann was aware that there was an emergence of a culture that had power and more that lacked it.  For Mann, the culture that possessed social, political, and economic power were able to do so primarily because they were the benefactors of good and thorough education.  It is in this vein that Mann believes the need to engage in significant education reform becomes vital to the promises and possibilities of American Democracy.  I think that Mann's suggestion of the education system being "the great equalizer" is significant because Mann embraces "the opportunity ideology."  Mann's concept of "the great equalizer" believes that if individuals work hard and focus their efforts in a diligent manner, social advancement is possible.  It is something towards which Mann was zealous, to the point where he genuinely felt that if a "common learning experience" was constructed in accordance to high standards and inclusive of everyone, poor and rich could experience the transformative of power, ensuring that their contributions to a great democracy would be worthwhile and validated.  To this end, Mann believes in education being "the great equalizer."

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