The Diplomatic Relations of the United States with the Barbary Powers, 1776-1816

By Arthur Alphonse Ekirch Jr. | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VII
EDUCATION: THE UNIVERSAL UTOPIA

ALMOST universally accepted as a means of progress, yet subject to much controversy over its application, was the educational program evolving in the United States during the period from 1815 to 1860. In these decades a free public education was eventually made available for everyone except in the South. Further up the educational ladder and not yet seriously challenged by the high school or state university, the privately endowed academies and colleges increased their enrollments, broadened their curricula, and continued to arbitrate the destinies of higher education in America. Education during this period also became increasingly secularized. In the common schools the influence of the old religious societies declined with the advent of centralized state control. In the colleges the clergymen-presidents and trustees came to be in part supported by the funds of the rising order of merchant and manufacturing philanthropists.

No better example of the practical effect of the idea of progress could be found than in this tremendous growth of American education. In a democratic, progressive nation an educated populace was considered to be of vital importance. To meet the needs of a democratic government and to vindicate the establishment of universal manhood suffrage, an intelligent electorate was deemed necessary. In a speech before the House of Representatives in 1846 Robert Dale Owen, an American Congressman and the son of the famous English socialist, gave expression to this idea of the function of education in a progressive democracy. Owen, who was influential in the public school movement in Indiana, believed:

They who govern should be wise. They who govern should be educated. They who decide mighty questions should be enlightened. Then, as we value wise government, as we would have the destinies of our kind shaped by an enlightened tri

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