Why I Write

I am examining a number of nineteenth-century American educators in my dissertation, including the man often considered the founder of the American public school system, Horace Mann.  Recently, I came across a passage in the Life and Works of Horace Mann, Vol. II that resonated deeply with me.  I hope to make it my mantra as I continue to write my dissertation.

Horace Mann c. 1849

Horace Mann, c. 1849

Mann wrote, “…no man [or woman] ever comprehends his own views clearly and definitely, or ever avails himself of all the resources of his own mind, until he reduces his thoughts to writing, or embodies them in some visible, objective form.” (p. 93)

As I read and conduct research for my dissertation, I find it all too easy to tell myself that I am not ready to write yet.  Of course there is always more to read – there ALWAYS will be more to read.  Mann’s words encouraged me to stop researching and start writing.  Perhaps I am not entirely done with the primary sources, but putting my own words on paper will help me shape my thoughts and make sense of the thousands of pages of research I have done.  What do I actually want to say in this dissertation anyway?

I envision that this site will also provide a place where I can muse about history wherever I encounter it, whether in a classroom, in a museum, in the archives, or sitting in front of my computer screen typing my dissertation.  By putting my thoughts on paper “in some visible, objective form,” I hope to come to a greater understanding of them.


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