The seeds of American social reform began in the early days of the nineteenth century. By the 1860 s, American society was beleaguered by groups demanding change. Abolitionists called for the termination of slavery. Women fought for their equal rights. Other reformers pressed for wider public education and the expulsion of alcohol. Although these reform movements sought to improve the country’s well being, they went against its valued democratic ideals.
In essence, they wanted to create a utopian society based on equality, a standard the reform movements did not support. “I have often been told, and I have read, that it is God who makes some poor, and others rich; that the rich have many troubles which we know nothing of; and that the poor, if they are but good, may be very happy… .” (Doc. E) Although public education was one of the most successful reform movements of that era, this passage from a children’s primer shows children that they must accept inequalities and that wealth and poverty can only be determined by God.
This greatly opposes the democratic ideal of equal opportunity. In a sense, the government contradicts itself in how it instills these virtues in children even though they are against what this country stands for. Not only does the government contradict itself, but completely throws out the past, a road paved by those great minds who saw potential in their democratic principles. Perhaps Orestes A. Browns on said it best in his address before the Society of the Mystical Seven, “These systems of reform disown the past, condemn what has been, and propose the creation of an entirely new social order… It is to no man’s credit that he disowns what has gone before him…
December 8, 2004 Education Reform Education reform means to make education better by removing faults and defects. True educators are always thinking of more effective ways to enhance and democratize the way children learn. With the continuous change of growing population, economics, culture, family, and global communication, there has to be continuous educational reforms to keep the society ...
.” (Doc. G) Society was ready to abandon their old ideals and replace them with new ones. In addition, reform movements aimed to restrict frivolous activities such as drinking. Although this may have been for the better of all society, it restricted the freedom that people so proudly possessed (Doc. H).
Prohibition, however, was a dismal failure.
The minute liberty was momentarily crushed, a tremendous backfire occurred. Although movements such as the abolition and women’s rights movements helped pave the way for equivalent rights, these groups never really attained the equality they deserved. Even today, there exists a great deal of discrimination against them. How can a government that bases so many of its principles on equality continue to oppose their own ideals? Reform movements may have had good intentions, but rather opposed democratic ideals then expanded them.