Robert Green Ingersoll
OUR SCHOOLS. I BELIEVE that education is the only lever capable of raising mankind. If we wish to make the future of the Republic glorious we must educate the children of the present. The greatest blessing conferred by our Government is the free school. In importance it rises above everything else that the Government does. In its influence it is far greater. The schoolhouse is infinitely more important than the church, and if all the money wasted in the building of churches could be devoted to education we should become a civilized people. Of course, to the extent that churches disseminate thought they are good, and to the extent that they provoke discussion they are of value, but the real object should be to become acquainted with nature -- with the conditions of happiness -- to the end that man may take advantage of the forces of nature. I believe in the schools for manual training, and that every child should be taught not only to think, but to do, and that the hand should be educated with the brain. The money expended on schools is the best investment made by the Government. The schoolhouses in New York are not sufficient. Many of them are small, dark, unventilated, and unhealthy. They should be the finest public buildings in the city. It would be far better for the Episcopalians to build a university than a cathedral. Attached to all these schoolhouses there should be grounds for the children -- places for air and sun-light. They should be given the best. They are the hope of the Republic and, in my judgment, of the world. We need far more schoolhouses than we have, and while money is being wasted in a thousand directions, thousands of children are left to be educated in the gutter. It is far cheaper to build schoolhouses than prisons, and it is much better to have scholars than convicts. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 15 OUR SCHOOLS. The Kindergarten system should be adopted, especially for the young; attending school is then a pleasure -- the children do not run away from school, but to school. We should educate the children not simply in mind, but educate their eyes and hands, and they should be taught something that will be of use, that will help them to make a living, that will give them independence, confidence -- that is to say, character. The cost of the schools is very little, and the cost of land -- giving the children, as I said before, air and light -- would amount to nothing. There is another thing: Teachers are poorly paid. Only the best should be employed, and they should be well paid. Men and women of the highest character should have charge of the children, because there is a vast deal of education in association, and it is of the utmost importance that the children should associate with real gentlemen -- that is to say, with real men; with real ladies -- that is to say, with real women. Every schoolhouse should be inviting, clean, well ventilated, attractive. The surroundings should be delightful. Children forced to school, learn but little. The schoolhouse should not be a prison or the teachers turnkeys. I believe that the common school is the bread of life, and all should be commanded to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. It would have been far better to have expelled those who refused to eat. The greatest danger to the Republic is ignorance. Intelligence is the foundation of free government. -- The World, New York, September 7, 1890. END
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