Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
[E]very child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country; he should lisp the praise of liberty, and of those illustrious heroes and statesmen, who have wrought a revolution in her favor.
A selection of essays, respecting the settlement and geography of America; the history of the late revolution and of the most remarkable characters and events that distinguished it, and a compendium of the principles of the federal and provincial governments, should be the principal school book in the United States. These are interesting objects to every man; they call home the minds of youth and fix them upon the interests of their own country, and they assist in forming attachments to it, as well as in enlarging the understanding.
It is observed by the great Montesquieu that “the laws of education ought to be relative to the principles of the government.”
In despotic governments, the people should have little or no education, except what tends to inspire them with a servile fear. Information is fatal to despotism.
In monarchies, education should be partial, and adapted to the rank of each class of citizens. But “in a republican government,” says the same writer, “the whole power of education is required.” Here every class of people should know and love the laws. This knowledge should be diffused by means of schools and newspapers, and an attachment to the laws may be formed by early impressions upon the mind.
Two regulations are essential to the continuance of republican governments: 1. Such a distribution of lands and such principles of descent and alienation as shall give every citizen a power of acquiring what his industry merits. 2. Such a system of education as gives every citizen an opportunity of acquiring knowledge and fitting himself for places of trust. These are fundamental articles; the sine qua non of the existence of the American republics.
In our American republics, where government is in the hands of the people, knowledge should be universally diffused by means of public schools. Of such consequence is it to society that the people who make laws should be well informed that I conceive no Legislature can be justified in neglecting proper establishments for this purpose.
— On the Education of Youth in America, Noah Webster, 1790