Horace Mann (1796 – 1859) was an educational reformer belonging to the Whig Party, and influential in the history of public education in the United States. During his period, most education was private, and conducted by institutions affiliated with particular religious denominations. Mann argued that education should instead by universal and public, funded by taxes, and non-sectarian. He also felt that students from various social classes and religious background should mix in common schools. He also believed that students should not be taught sectarian religious doctrines in school. However, this did not mean that schools had no moral purpose.
Instead, for Mann, the function of schooling was not just to inculcate knowledge, but to build character, discipline, and ethics. That did mean teaching those religious principles on which all Christians could agree, such as the necessity of charity to the poor, widows, and orphans, or that it was wrong to lie, cheat, or steal.