Donn Piatt on public education

From “the sage of Mac-O-Chee“, Donn Piatt:

True education means that development of the intellectual qualities which facilitate thought. Popular education is a mere exercise of memory. To store away facts without the power to assimilate them is the grand elevating process that is to lift our youth by platoons to the same plane.

Memory, however necessary it is to secure information, is not the mind. On the contrary, when made monstrous by over use and stimulation, it eventually destroys the intellectual facilities it meant to aid.

The impatient child of genius who doubts or disputes the fact given to him to swallow is plucked and expelled while the dull plodding fellow who pigeon holes away a vast store of facts he cannot comprehend is graduated.

The student of books who learns to attribute intellectual motives to human action, finds himself alone and at a loss when dealing with the masses.

A mother’s love and a father’s care train good citizens and give stability to the government. We are enthusiastic over common schools and public institutions and firmly determined to make the pedagogue do the duty of the parent.

The popular superstition that tells us that teaching a child from books elevates its nature, and is all that is called for in the way of training, is curing itself through the most costly of learning, that of experience.

The mind is the most subtle, delicate, and important part of us and yet we turn this over to the stupid pedagogue who is capable of teaching precisely in proportion as he is incapable of other pursuits.

The common schools are worst than Godless; they are idolatrous, for the false god worshipped is memory.

For years I’ve struggled to eloquently express my deep frustration with the educational system in our country. Little did I know that men like Donn Piatt explored this issue nearly a century earlier in an era where home-based schooling was the norm and widespread state-funded and sponsored public schooling was still a new and hotly debated concept.

Share/Bookmark

Leave a Reply