Monday, August 17, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (8)


Founding Fathers

There are a lot of literary works pertinent to the history and philosophy of American education. Mark Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell’s America’s Providential History documents colonial education. Here are a variety of quotes from that reference. All of these quotes are derived from even longer pieces of literature on early American education.

“The Pilgrims arrived in America with books and in the first days of colonization, ministers were given ten pounds to begin libraries.”(1) (There were no worries about inappropriate expenditures of taxpayers’ money in these libraries as they were privately controlled by the church.)

According to James D. Hart, “Between 1640 and 1700 the literacy rate was between 89 and 95 percent, quite probably the highest concentration of literate males to be found anywhere in the world at that time.”(2)

“In the 1680s, the modern equivalents of 10 million non-religious books were bought from one English book dealer.”(3) In England, the comparable literacy rate never exceeded 40 percent in that century.

Benjamin Franklin said, “A nation of well informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins.”(4)

Educational scholar Rosalie Slater states, “At the time of the Declaration of Independence the quality of education had enabled the colonists to achieve a degree of literacy from 70% to virtually 100%. This was not education restricted to the few.”(5)

American literature historian Moses Coit Tyler said, “When the American State papers arrived in Europe, they surprised and astonished the ‘enlighten men.’ Americans had been dismissed as ‘illiterate back-woodsmen’ as, perhaps, law-defying revolutionists.’ But when these papers were read they found to contain ‘nearly every quality indicative of personal and national greatness.’”(6)

Ten year-old John Quincy Adams wrote in a letter to his father on June 2, 1777, “P.S. – Sir, If you will be so good as to favor me with a blank-book I will transcribe the most remarkable occurrences I meet with in my reading, which will serve to fix them on my mind.”(7)

Samuel L. Blumenfeld shares, “Of the 117 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the constitution, one out of three had only a few months of formal schooling, and only one in four had gone to college. Parents and neighbors assumed it was their responsibility to fulfill Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ‘And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons…’ and Ephesians 6:4, ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.’”(8)

(1) Mark Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell, America’s Providential History (Charlottesville, VA: Providence Press, 1992), 93.
(2) James D. Hart, The Popular Book: A History of America’s Literary Taste (New York: Oxford, 1950), 8.
(3) Hart, The Popular Book, 15.
(4) Beliles and McDowell, America’s Providential History, 93.
(5) Beliles and McDowell, 95.
(6) Beliles and McDowell, 95.
(7) Beliles and McDowell, 101.
(8) Beliles and McDowell, 105.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

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