Education Will Not Save Us
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
There is great danger of placing too high a value upon education. In this country we have been taught extravagant notions in regard to its beneficial influences upon life and life work. Those who discuss educational problems talk in the most exalted terms of the improvement of the individual and the perfecting of society under the stimulus of mind training. They seem to believe that the universal diffusion of knowledge is a universal diffusion of power to do good. Modern philosophers and teachers of science have proclaimed the approach of the millenium as the result of universal liberty and universal education. Our Websters, Clays,. Sumners and Garfields have supposed, with a large degree of truth, that popular education is a guarantee of the perpetuity of American institutions. Education has been regarded as a sure remedy for all our ills, national, political, social, actual or possible, for all defects in individual life or national policy. "More education has been the remedy these doctors would apply. All classes of our people have shared these fine enthusiasms until we are in danger of adding one more goddess to the mythology of Greece and Rome and enshrining Knowledge as "sister and wife of Jove."
From these sweet dreams of the past we are even now being treated to a very rude awakening. Labor strikes have paralyzed industry, stopped productions and thrown the social fabric out of joint. Socialistic agitators are sowing seeds of disturbance in every city. In the near future there is solemn danger of a harvest of anarchy. Communistic principles are boldly proclaimed and the lower classes of society are muttering and growling in feverish discontent. The superficial education which they have received only adds fuel to flame and brings the impending conflagration nearer.
We have not realized as we ought that education is power to do evil as well as to do good. Education may make a man only a greater rascal, thief, sneak, assassin. There is something back of education that is to determine whether this new power shall be used for good or evil. The controlling forces of manhood are moral and not intellectual, and national education will be the folly of modern times if we are to cherish and foster national sin. The moral element of the American people may save the nation and our national institutions ; but there is no power in intellectual education, in and of itself, to do this. The popular mind should be undeceived. The tree of knowledge grew hard by the tree of life, but their fruit was not the same. Let us be educated; but let us be done with the folly that education is a remedy for every ill. It will do much ; but it cannot save the nation unless the "sober second-thought" shall prevail in politics and social life.