The United States of America: A Study of the American Commonwealth, Its Natural Resources, People, Industries, Manufactures, Commerce, and Its Work in Literature, Science, Education, and Self-Government - Vol. 2

By Nathaniel Southgate Shaler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI.
EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES.

INTRODUCTION.

EDUCATION in the United States is regarded as something organic--something belonging essentially to our political and social structure. Daniel Webster announced, in his clear and incisive manner, this necessity that appertains to the American form of government. He said: "On the diffusion of education among the people rest the preservation and perpetuation of our free institutions. I apprehend no danger to our country from a foreign foe. . . . Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. From the inattention of the people to the concerns of the Government, from their carelessness and negligence, I confess I do apprehend some danger. I fear that they may place too implicit confidence in their public servants, and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct; that in this way they may be the dupes of designing men and become the instruments of their undoing. Make them intelligent and they will be vigilant; give them the means of detecting the wrong and they will apply the remedy."

We are making the experiment of self-government--a government of the people by the people--and it has seemed a logical conclusion to all nations of all times that the rulers of the people should have the best education attainable. Then, of course, it follows that the entire people of a democracy should be educated, for they are the rulers.

Quoting again from Webster's Plymouth oration in 1822: "By general instruction we seek as far as possible to purify the whole atmosphere, to keep good sentiments uppermost, and to turn the strong current of feeling and opinion, as well as the censures of the law and the denunciations of religion, against immorality and crime."

This necessity for education has been felt in all parts of the nation, and the whole subject is reasoned out in many a school

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