THE EFFECT OF EDUCATION UPON THE WORLDLY FORTUNES OF MEN
BY HORACE MANN
. . .The declination of the sun towards the southern tropic is not more certainly followed by winter, with all its blankness and sterility, nor does the ascension of that luminary towards our own part of the heavens more certainly bring on summer, with all its beauty and abundance, than does the want or the enjoyment of education degrade or elevate the condition of a people. I will occupy the short space which propriety allows to me, in concluding this Report, by showing the effect of education upon the worldly fortunes and estates of men, -- its influence upon property, upon human comfort and competence, upon the outward, visible, material interests of well-being of individuals and communities.
This view, so far from being the highest which can be taken of the beneficent influences of education, may, perhaps, be justly regarded as the lowest. But it is a palpable view. It presents an aspect of the subject susceptible of being made intelligible to all; and, therefore, it will meet the case of thousands who are now indifferent about the education of their offspring, because they foresee no re-imbursement in kind, no return in money, or in money’s worth, for money expended. The co-operation of this numerous class is indispensable, in order to carry out the system; and if they can be induced to educate their children, even from inferior motives, the children, when educated, will feel its higher and nobler affinities.
So, too, in regard to towns. If it can be proved that the aggregate wealth of a town will be increased just in proportion to the increase of its appropriations for schools, the opponents of such a measure will be silenced. The tax for this purpose, which they now look upon as a burden, they will then regard as a profitable investment. Let it be shown that the money which is now clung to by the parent, in the hope of increasing his children’s legacies some six or ten per cent. can be so invested as to double their patrimony, and the blind instinct of parental love, which now, by voice and vote, opposes such outlay, will become an advocate for the most generous endowments. When the money expended for education shall be viewed in its true character, as seed-grain sown in a soil which is itself enriched by yielding, then the most parsimonious will not stint the sowing, lest the harvest also should be stinted, and thereby thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold should be lost to the garners.
I am the more induced to take this view of the subject, because the
advocates and eulogists of education have rarely, if ever, descended to
so humble a duty as to demonstrate its pecuniary value both to individuals
and to society. They have expended their strength in
Although, therefore, this utilitarian view of education, as it may be called, which regards it as the dispenser of private competence, and the promoter of national wealth, it by no means the first which would address itself to an enlightened and benevolent mind, yet it will be found to possess intrinsic merits, and to be worthy of the special regard, not only of the political economist, but of the lawgiver and moralist. Nature fastens upon us original and inexorable necessities in regard to food, raiment, and shelter. Though these physical wants are among the lowest that belong to our being, yet there is a view of them which is not sordid or ignoble. They must be first served, because, if denied, forthwith the race is extinct. They domineer over us; and, until supplied, their importunate clamor will drown every appeal to higher capacities. No hungry or houseless people ever were, or ever will be, an intelligent or a moral one. It is found that the church, the lecture-room, and the hall of science, flourish best where regard is paid to the institution for savings. The divine charities of Christian love are often straitened, because our means of benevolence fall short of our desires.
I proceed, then, to show that education has a power of ministering to our personal and material wants beyond all other agencies, whether excellence of climate, spontaneity of production, mineral resources, or mines of silver and gold. Every wise parent and community, desiring the prosperity of their children, even in the most worldly sense, will spare no pains in giving them a generous education.
During the past year, I have opened a correspondence, and availed myself
of all opportunities to hold personal interviews, with many of the most
practical sagacious, and intelligent business-men amongst us, who for many
years have had large numbers of persons in their employment. My object
has been to ascertain the difference in the productive ability—where natural
capacities have been equal—between the educated and the uneducated; between
a man or woman whose mind has been awakened to thought and supplied with
the rudiments of knowledge by a good common-school education and one whose
faculties have never been developed, or aided in emerging from their original
darkness and torpor, by such a privilege. For this purpose I have conferred
and corresponded with manufacturers of all kinds, with machinists, engineers
railroad contractors, officers in the army, &c. These various classes
of persons have means of determining the effects of education on individuals,
equal in their natural abilities, which other classes do not possess. A
farmer hiring a laborer for one season, who has received a good common-school
education, and, the ensuing season, hiring another who has not enjoyed
this advantage, although he may be personally convinced of the relative
value or profitableness of their services, will rarely have any exact data
or tests to refer to by which he can measure the superiority of the former
over the latter. They do not work side by side, so that he can
But when hundreds of men or women work side by side, in the same factory, at the same machinery, in making the same fabrics, and, by a fixed rule of the establishment, labor the same number of hours each day; and when, also, the products of each operative can be counted in number, weighed by the pound, or measured by the yard or cubic foot, -- then it is perfectly practicable to determine with arithmetical exactness the productions of one individual and one class as compared with those of another individual and another class.
So where there are different kinds of labor, some simple, others complicated, and, of course, requiring different degrees of intelligence and skill, it is easy to observe what class of persons rise form a lower to a higher grade of employment.
This, too, is not to be forgotten, -- that in a manufacturing or mechanical establishment, or among a set of hands engaged in filling up a valley or cutting down a hill, where scores of people are working together, the absurd and adventitious distinctions of society do not intrude. The capitalist and his agents are looking for the greatest amount of labor, or the largest income in money from their investments; and they do not promote a dunce to a station where he will destroy raw material, or slacken industry, because of his name or birth or family connections. The obscurest and humblest person has an open and fair field for competition. That he proves himself capable of earning more money for his employer is a testimonial better than a diploma from all the colleges.
Now, many of the most intelligent and valuable men in our community,
in compliance with my request, -- for which I tender them my public and
grateful acknowledgements, -- have examined their books for a series of
years, and have ascertained both the quality and the amount of work performed
by persons in their employment; and the result of the investigation is
a most astonishing superiority, in productive power, on the part of the
educated over the uneducated laborer. The hand is found to be another hand
I now proceed to lay before the Board some portions of the evidence I have obtained, first inserting my Circular Letter, in answer to which, communications have been made.
To --- ---.,
Dear Sir, -- My best and only apology for taking the liberty to address
you will be found in the object I have in view, which, therefore, I proceed
to state without further preface.
I regret to say, that among these I occasionally meet with individuals, who, although very differently circumstanced in life, cordially agree in their indifference towards the cause of common education; and some of whom even profess to be alarmed at possible mischiefs that may come in its train, and therefore stand in its path, and obstruct its advancement.
The individuals who thus maintain an attitude of neutrality, or assume
one of active opposition, are either persons who, in their worldly circumstances,
are deemed the favorites of fortune, or they are persons who are alike
strangers to mental cultivation, and to all the outward and ordinary signs
of temporal prosperity. In a word, they are found, in regard to their worldly
condition, at the two extremes of the social scale. I would by no means
be understood to say, that any considerable proportion of the men of wealth
amongst us look with an unfriendly eye on the general diffusion of the
means of knowledge. On the contrary, some of the best friends of education
are to be found amongst this class, who, uniting abundance of means with
benevolence of disposition, are truly efficient in advancing the work.
Nor, on this subject, are the lines of demarcation between parties broadly
drawn; but they shade off, by imperceptible degrees, from friends to opponents.
The other class are those who, suffering from a neglected or a perverted education in themselves, seem incapable of appreciating either the temporal and material well-being, or the mental elevation and enjoyment, which it is the prerogative of a good education to confer. These two parties, though alien from each other in all other respects, are allies here; and although, with the exception of a very few towns in the Commonwealth, they are not numerically strong, yet, but adroitly implicating other questions with that of Public Schools, they are able in many cases to baffle all efforts at reform and improvement.
The views of these parties I believe to be radically wrong, anti-social, anti-Republican, anti-Christian; and I believe that all action in pursuance of them will impair the best interests of society, and originate a train of calamities, in which not only their advocates, but all portions of the community, will be involved. Convinced that such is the inevitable and accelerating tendency of such views, it seems to me to be the duty of the friends of mankind to meet them with fairness and a conciliatory spirit indeed, but with earnestness and energy, and to confute them by the production of evidence and the exposition of principles.
It is for this reason that I address you, and solicit a reply, founded upon your personal knowledge, to the following questions: --
First, -- Have you had large numbers of persons in your employment or under your superintendence? If so, will you please to state how many? Within what period of time? In what department of business? Whether at different places? Whether natives or foreigners?
Second, -- Have you observed differences among the persons you have
employed, growing out of differences in their education, and independent
of their natural abilities; that is, whether, as a class, those who
from early life have been accustomed to exercise their minds by reading
and studying have greater docility and quickness in applying themselves
to work? and, after the simples details are mastered, have they greater
aptitude, dexterity, or ingenuity in comprehending ordinary processes,
or in origination new ones? Do they more readily or frequently devise new
modes by which that same amount of work can be better done, or by which
more work can be done in the same time, or by which raw material or motive-power
can be economized? In short, do you obtain more work and better work, with
less waste, from those who have received what, in Massachusetts, we call
a good common-school education, or from those who have grown up in neglect
and ignorance? Is
Third, -- What, within your knowledge, has been the effect of higher degrees of mental application and culture upon the domestic and social habits of persons in your employment? Is this class more cleanly in their persons, their dress, and their households? and do they enjoy a greater immunity from those diseases which originate in a want of personal neatness and purity? Are they more exemplary in their deportment and conversation, devoting more time to intellectual pursuits or to the refining art of music, and spending their evenings and leisure hours more with their families, and less at places of resort for idle and dissipated men? Is a smaller portion of them addicted to intemperance? Are their houses kept in a superior condition? Does a more economical and judicious mode of living purchase greater comforts at the same expense, or equal comforts with less means? Are their families better brought up, more respectably dressed, more regularly attendant upon the school and the church? and do their children, when arrived at years of maturity, enter upon the active scenes of life with better prospects of success?
Fourth, -- In regard to standing and respectability among co-laborers, neighbors, and fellow-citizens generally, how do those who have enjoyed and improved the privilege of good common schools compare with the neglected and illiterate? Do the former exercise greater influence among their associates? Are they more often applied to for advice and counsel in case of difficulty, or selected as umpires or arbitrators for the decisions of minor controversies? Are higher and more intelligent circles for acquaintance open to them, from conversation and intercourse with which their own minds can be constantly improved? Are they more likely to rise from grade to grade in the scale of labor, until they enter departments where greater skill, judgment, and responsibility are required, and which therefore command a larger remuneration? Are they more likely to rise from the condition of employés, and to establish themselves in business on their own account?
Fifth, -- Have you observed any difference in the classes above named (I speak of them as classes, for there will, of course, be individual exceptions) in regard to punctuality and fidelity in the performance of duties? Which class is most regardful of the rights of others, and most intelligent and successful in securing their own? You will, of course, perceive that this question involves a more general one; viz., from which of the above-described classes have those who possess property, and who hope to transmit it to their children, most to fear from secret aggression, or from such public degeneracy as will loosen the bands of society, corrupt the testimony of witnesses, violate the sanctity of the juror's oath, and substitute, as a rule of right, the power of a numerical majority for the unvarying principles of justice?
Sixth, -- Finally, in regard to those who posses the largest shares
in the stock of worldly goods, could there, in your opinion, be any police
so vigilant and effective, for the protection of all the rights of person,
property, and character, as such a sound and comprehensive education and
training as our system of common schools could be made to impart? and would
not the payment of a sufficient tax to make such education and training
I am aware, my dear, sir, that, to every intelligent and reflecting man, these inquiries will seem superfluous and nugatory; and your first impulse may be to put some such interrogatory to me in reply, as whether the sun has any influence on vegetable growth, or whether it is expedient to have windows in our houses for the admission of light. I acknowledge the close analogy of the cases in point of self-evidence; but my reply is, that while we have influential persons, who dwell with us in the same common mansion of society, and who, having secured for themselves a few well-lighted apartments, now insist that total darkness is better for a portion of the occupants born and dwelling under the same roof; and while; unfortunately, a portion of these benighted occupants, from never having seen more than the feeblest glimmerings of the light of day, insist that it is better for them and their children to remain blind; while these opinions continue to exist, I hold that it is necessary to adduce facts and arguments, and to present motives, which shall prove, both to the blinded and those who would keep them so, the value and beauty of light.
P.S. If the above shall give you a general outline of my object, I would
thank you to fill it up, even though parts of it may not be distinctly
indicated by the questions.
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