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16
FIRESIDE EDUCATION.
sphere have been thus slow in aiding the march of human improvement, there has been a very different state of things in the more fortunate country where our lot is cast. From the first settlement of New England, the system of gene­ral education was conceived and carried into practical effect. Our sagacious and philanthro­pic fathers foresaw that general intelligence among a people was indispensable to self-govern­ment, and felt that the light of learning was the birthright of all. This was a great political discovery: and it is the more remarkable when we consider the opinions and practice of that age. The importance of education, its omnipo­tent power over human character, shaping it, with the force of destiny, to good or evil issues, was well understood. And from the time that Europe began to emerge from the dark ages, it had been a matter of pride with many sove­reigns to aid the revival of learning. But how was this done ? Not by attempting to enlighten the whole community, but by the founding of colleges or universities, where a chosen few might be instructed in every branch of human knowledge. The idea was to establish institu­tions on a magnificent scale, endow them with ample funds, store them with rich libraries, col­lect into them every kind of philosophical appa-
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