Reforms: The Antebellum Period Before The Civil War

947 words - 4 pages

The antebellum period before the Civil War was one of rapid changes in American society. During this time, Americans began to feel a growing belief in human goodness and perfection, resulting in a new commitment to improve the character of people. Many reformers developed their enthusiasm for the cause from religion. The Second Great Awakening encouraged a lively evangelicalism to spread throughout the country, inspiring these modern idealists to work for a perfected social order that would be free from cruelty, war, alcoholism, discrimination, and slavery. American reform movements between 1820 and 1860 reflected pessimistic views of human nature, but also showed a hopeful outlook towards American society regarding education, woman’s rights, and penal institutions.
Great efforts were made between 1820 and 1860 in order to improve the American education system. Tax-supported public education was limited until conservative Americans began to think differently about its importance. The increasing number of people voting during the Jacksonian Era led to the belief that children needed to be educated so that they might not grow up to be ignorant voters. Laborers also thought it would be beneficial to have an educated future workforce. One potent figure in this movement was Horace Mann. As secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, he advocated for more and better schoolhouses, longer school terms, higher pay for teachers, and an expanded curriculum. Noah Webster also notably aided education by publishing a dictionary and especially by improving textbooks, which promoted patriotism and morality. The Second Great Awakening ignited an increase in the development of colleges, especially in the South and West. The new colleges generally taught a narrow and traditional curriculum of Latin, Greek, mathematics, and philosophy. Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia is 1819 as an institution of higher learning. Differing from other new colleges, religion and political components were not as important, whereas modern languages and science were unusually highlighted. This new kind of institution provided for upward mobility in society for many young men. Although reforms resulted in great enhancements in education, schools were often class-based and gender-based. Education remained an expensive indulgence in the eyes of many. It was illegal for African Americans in the South and North to attend school. Women’s education was also disparaged, as society viewed women’s primary role to be in domestic work. There were still efforts to be made in the reformation of education involving optimistic and pessimistic perspectives on who should attend school.
In the nineteenth century, growing gender inequality largely affected the roles of women and men. Women were thought to be inferior to men, and some longed to break free of the secondary roles that were assigned to them. While fighting for women’s rights, female reformers also joined in other...

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