Established in 1887 by Nicholas Murray Butler in New York City, the Horace Mann School captured two late nineteenth-century trends in secondary schooling: the country day school, which combined the rigor of boarding schools with outdoor physical exercise; and the progressive school, which aimed to counter the sterility of public schools. As president of the Industrial Education Association, which trained underprivileged girls in domestic skills, Butler spearheaded an effort to expand the curriculum to include academic subjects as well, but he also wanted to train teachers specifically for this unique curriculum. He changed the school’s name to the New York College for the Training of Teachers and also founded the Model School, as part of Teachers College, where students could observe and practice teaching methods; soon after, the school was renamed the Horace Mann School.
Shortly after Teachers College and Columbia University became affiliated in 1897, the Horace Mann School moved to the Morningside Heights area of New York City, where it remained until 1914. In that year, the Boys’ School moved to the school’s present location at 246th Street in the Bronx. In addition, it moved away from the original philosophy of Teachers College; its mission was to prepare boys for college or business life through a full schedule of courses, extracurricular activities, and athletics. The Girls’ School stayed at Morningside Heights until 1940 when it merged with the Lincoln School, which took on a more experimental approach to teaching. In 1946, the Horace Mann-Lincoln School closed.
The remaining Horace Mann School was able to separate financially from Teachers College and become an independent day school for boys, with an official charter granted in 1951. Through a series of mergers with other schools, including the New York School for Nursery Years and Barnard School, Horace Mann reestablished coeducation and took on its present organization. Since the early 1970s, boys and girls have been educated together in the school’s four divisions: Nursery (three-year-olds to kindergarten age), Lower (kindergarten to fifth grade), Middle (sixth to eighth grade), and Upper (ninth to twelfth grade).
Today, the Horace Mann School has three campuses: in Manhattan; Riverdale (Bronx); and Washington, Connecticut.
The liberal arts are emphasized in its curriculum, which centers on five “core values,” including the “life of the mind,” which encourages analytical thinking early on; “mature behavior,” in which students are expected to illustrate age-appropriate behavior; “mutual respect,” which fosters respect for diversity; “a secure and healthful environment,” which secures a climate free from sexual harassment, racism, or other behaviors that hinder the learning process; and “a balance between individual achievement and a caring community,” which helps students to look beyond themselves. In addition to its rigorous academics (twenty advanced placement courses and eight foreign languages), the Horace Mann School also boasts a national reputation for extensive extracurricular activities (including an award-winning weekly student newspaper), more than 220 faculty members (many of whom hold advanced degrees), and a diverse student body.
- McCardell, R. A. (Ed.). (1962). The Country Day School: History, curriculum, philosophy of Horace Mann School. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana.
- Horace Mann School: http://www.horacemann.org
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