Imagens da página

general prosperity of the country, than any other change that can be suggested in educational matters.

Perhaps there never was a time when any people owed so much to their forefathers as we owe to the founders of this republic; and the only way we can pay the debt is by transmitting the inheritance received from them, unimpaired, enlarged, and improved, to those who shall come after us.

As we have so satisfactorily closed the first century of our national existence, and are now entering upon a new era, let it not be said of us that we failed to appreciate the legacy bequeathed to us by the fathers, but that having purified the nation by the recent baptism of blood, and cleansed it from the blot of African slavery, extended its beneficent institutions from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from Mexico to the Frozen Seas, jealously guarding the portals of liberty by instructing all the youth of the land in the principles of a free government, we pass over the great inheritance to the next generation, as the highest political boon, the grandest national blessing granted to mankind by Him who presides over the destinies of nations with matchless wisdom and infinite goodness.





ARISTOCRACY has always opposed the education of the people. The aristocracy of Caste asserts that the great majority of mankind are born to serve, and, since the less intelligent the servant, the more docile the service, it declares that education unfits the children of toil for their lot in life.

The aristocracy of Capital asserts that intelligence increases the price of labor, and it opposes popular education as a tax on capital. The more intelligent a man is, the greater are his wants, and the higher must be his wages in order to meet his increased necessities. Ignorant labor has few wants to supply, and hence is content with low wages.

The aristocracy of Culture asserts that the “ masses ” are born dullards, and that all attempts to educate them are futile. The few on whom God has bestowed the gift of brains are commissioned to do the world's thinking, and they thus monopolize the right to eclucation. This is the doctrine of the hero-worshipper, Carlyle, and it is asserted more or less clearly by many devotees of culture, who have lost all sympathy for the people. It has been faintly echoed by the learned president of Harvard.

These three aristocracies, the three aristocratic C's, unite in opposing all efforts to uplift the laborer by the power of education. Schooling, they assert, spoils children for labor ; it makes them discontented with their lot; fills them with vain ambitions ; makes them idle, etc. These assertions are now more frequently aimed at higher education, and especially at the high school ; but they were once urged, with as great earnestness, against the elementary schools of the people. Reading and writing have received many a blow as the dreaded enemy of capital and caste.

The present condition of the country gives these dogmas a fresh interest, and the air is filled with their assertion in some form or degree. The late rapid multiplication of the industries of the country opened numerous positions demanding intelligence more than muscle. The opportunity thus offered to obtain higher wages, if not to find a short road to competency, has resulted in a growing disinclination to obtain a living by hard work. The recent check to the prosperity of the country makes this condition of affairs painfully evident, and aristocracy improves the opportunity to renew its assault upon popular education.

It is too common a trick of logic to connect two contemporaneous phenomena as cause and effect. The moon is thus made responsible for many results in agriculture, and the party that happens to be in power is always held responsible for hard times.” It is possible that the schools are not doing enough in the way of inculcating a respect for labor and a disrespect for idleness, and they may not be sufficiently effective in correcting other evils which afflict society; but this admission by no means makes the school responsible for these evils.

Many causes have contributed to the present disrespect for labor, and especially for what is termed menial service. The first of these is the influence of slavery, which once permeated the entire country with degrading views of labor. It will take a hundred years to recover from the influence of the slave code, with its “ mudsill ” theory of labor.

Another cause is immigration, which has filled nearly every department of common labor with ignorant and cheap workmen, crowding out intelligence, or subjecting it to unpleasant social conditions. It was once a common thing in New England for the sons and daughters of persons in good circumstances “to go out to service," and they were treated as the equals socially of other young people. This is now true in American communities where the social condition of the workman has not been degraded by the introduction of ignorant and cheap labor. When domestic service in this country was subjected to social degradation, the American girl turned to the mills and the factories for employment, and when ignorant foreign labor took possession of these, she turned to the store, the telegraph office, the school-room, and other occupations demanding intelligence and granting some social recognition. What the American girl has done, her brother has done. What each has sought is, not so much an escape from work, as protection from social ostracism. When the broom or the spade is socially tainted, the intelligent American youth will drop it. The only remedy is the removal of the social taint from the implements of

labor, by elevating the character of those who use them. It is the character of workmen, as a class, not their tools, that determines the dignity of their employment. Intelligence and moral worth ennoble all labor.

A third cause is the rapid development of the country, opening a multitude of employments, and bidding for bright and intelligent youth to fill them, thus causing a rush from the farm into the towns and cities, which have sprung up on every hand, as if by magic. How many different employments have thus been created, and what a multitude of desirable positions have thus been opened to American youth! Is it any wonder that the intelligent and ambitious have been attracted to them? Doubtless many a good farmer or mechanic has been spoiled, to make a poor lawyer or an unsuccessful merchant; but, on the contrary, all the professions and all departments of trade have been enriched and vitalized by contributions of brain power and character from the farm and the shop. The tide is now setting the other way, and the farm and the shop are bidding for intelligence and skill.

A fourth cause is the influence of our free institutions. The political and social ideas which are the common inheritance of Americans naturally incite the ambitious and aspiring to seek those employments which more directly lead to public life and official position. This has unquestionably done much to crowd the profession of law with briefless attorneys, who are devoting themselves to politics, – an illustration of the fact that Satan finds some mischief for idle brains as well as for idle hands.

The doctrine of civil equality involves so largely the idea of social equality, that menial service is made un

« AnteriorContinuar »