I thought I would share a few especially good quotes I picked up while doing research for my big history paper. I included a section on the role of Christianity in the public school system and the changes in the public education system that have occurred over the years, eventually coming to the conclusion that the public education should function not as an atheistic system but as a pluralistic system. There is a fair amount of evidence that many people's faith, whatever it is, serves as their primary guiding principle in determining ethical/moral action. Blah blah blah... I won't post my whole paper here, but it was still fun to write.
These quotes are from James J. Walsh, Education of the Founding Fathers of the Republic: Scholasticism in the Colonial Colleges, A Neglected Chapter in the History of American Education, New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 1935. I loved reading this book! I'm sorry I had to skim parts of it. I'll post more of these gems in days to come if people are interested in what I used in this paper. I had way too much material and had to cut a lot out. I ended up with 14 pages.
It [the difference between education then and now] is that the students in the colonial colleges had their duties toward others emphasized for them while the students of the modern time are taught ever so much more about their rights. They hear much now about the supreme importance of the development of individuality and the bringing out of personality; then they had repeated for them over and over again that education's aim was the benefit of the community and the doing of good for their fellow men.
The paramount purpose of education at the present time is to enable students to make a success of life. Success means above all the making of money. The supreme aim of education in the colonial times was to render students valuable to the community. Over and over again college documents of various kinds, charters, statutes, announcements, dwell on the fact that education was to be cultivated mainly, indeed almost wholly, for the purpose of producing suitable candidates for the ministry and the magistracy, so as to provide a mentally well trained pastorate for the churches and such candidates for political office as would assure honest administration as well as thoughtful consideration of the needs and rights of the people. Colonial educators without exception were intent on making students thoughtful for others rather than themselves while they provided the principles for the proper solution of political problems by men whose college training had been directed particularly toward making them honest, honorable, upright citizens and officials of the community.
This training came between the ages of fifteen and twenty, just when adolescents are most impressionable, and when impressions produced are very likely to endure. This seems to us entirely too early for graduation from college and we have been prolonging the period of tutelage during which young men are not encouraged to assume their personal responsibilities but are left to take things as they come and to consider that the less they have to devote themselves to hard work the better it is for them. Our generation is inclined to think that college work completed at twenty or earlier is surely too young, but our forefathers' generations would inevitably have felt that our young men were wasting their time when they were only graduated from preparatory school at nineteen or so, and that they ought surely to have reached a higher mental development than this at that time of life. (p. 330-331)
acquisition of information now took the place to a great extent of training in thoughtfulness and in discrimination of truth from falsity on which so much emphasis had been laid in the older time. Professor John Dewey once said that, "The best criterion of education that we have is that it keeps people from being duped." ...
It is probably easier to fool people now than ever before. Many refuse to believe that and lay the flattering unction to their souls that we are an intelligent, discriminating people, but the stock market and its devotees, our wonder working patent medicines, the ease with which our people fall for all sorts of frauds as well as the prevalence of political chicanery and the naïveté of voters, demonstrate very clearly the ease with which our generation may be duped. We have been filling students' memories with large numbers of facts but we have not trained them in that intellectual discrimination so important to the making of distinctions between what is true and what seems true and noting how close to each other truth and falsity may be under a great many circumstances. (pp. 319-320)
Rev. Dr. Bernard Iddings Bell, sometime Warden of St. Stephen's College, an integral part of Columbia University, in The American Scholar ( January 1933) says: "These seem to be the three great mistakes of the American people which have contributed to the debasing of our education: first, a feeling that the business of schools is to facilitate the production and ownership and use of things as the one great good in life, a good so great that other goods may safely be pushed into the background or in some cases wholly forgotten; second, an illusion of equality which ignores natural differentiations in human mentality, which denies that men differ in degree and kind of ability; third, a conviction that teaching is a trade like brick laying or bookkeeping instead of a high art, that education is a mechanical process."He adds that as a result of these errors and the compulsion which they engender, American education seems to a good many of us definitely defective in these respects:
- That it is satisfied to train people who can do things, even if they be otherwise ignorant, crude, and vulgar;
- That it encourages the incompetent and boorish to believe themselves adept and gentle;
- That it tends to make able-minded people lazy, conceited, unhappy, and cynical;
- That it has debased standards of scholarly achievement until the Ph.D. degree means little, the M.A. degree hardly enough to matter, the B.A. degree little more than the passing of time, and a high school diploma--the less said, the better;
- That it has so ignored the practice and philosophy of religion as to have deprived most of our people of stability to endure the shock of circumstances, and has thus engendered in the citizenry at large a dangerous hysteria, sometimes approaching mania;
- That it has substituted for teaching a Juggernaut apparatus, which flattens out personality, to the possible profit, but hardly the self-respect, of an hieratic caste;
- That it has made American scholarship, despite a considerable number of brilliant scholars, to be regarded with disrespect by other nations; while at the same time it has engendered throughout the land an academic complacency both ridiculous and devastating;
- That increasingly it obscures our vision of the great tradition, those ways of urbanity which might be our heritage, until we have largely lost the power to understand, control, or enjoy our civilization." (pp. 326-328)