"Neither years nor books have yet availed to extirpate a prejudice then rooted in me, that a scholar is the favorite of Heaven andearth, the excellency of his country, the happiest of men. His duties lead him directly into the holy ground where other men's aspirations only point. His successes are occasions of the purest joy to all men. Eyes is he to the blind; feet is he to the lame. His failures, if he is worthy, are inlets to higher advantages."
"The Roman rule was, to teach a boy nothing that he could not learn standing. The old English rule was, "All summer in the field, and all winter in the study." And it seems as if a man should learn to plant, or to fish, or to hunt, that he might secure his subsistence at all events, and not be painful to his friends and fellow men."
"But in a hundred high schools and colleges, this warfare against common-sense still goes on. Four, or six, or ten years, the pupilis parsing Greek and Latin, and as soon as he leaves the University, as it is ludicrously called, he shuts those books for the last time. Some thousands of young men are graduated at our colleges in this country every year, and the persons who, at forty years, still read Greek, can all be counted on your hand. I never met with ten. Four or five persons I have seen who read Plato. But is not this absurd, that the whole liberal talent of this country should be directed in its best years on studies which lead to nothing?"
"We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out atlast with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing."
"The intelligent have a right over the ignorant, namely, the right of instructing them. The right punishment of one out of tune, isto make him play in tune; the fine which the good, refusing to govern, ought to pay, is, to be governed by a worse man; that his guards shall not handle gold and silver, but shall be instructed that there is gold and silver in their souls, which will make men willing to give them every thing which they need."
"The intellect is vagabond, and our system of education fosters restlessness. Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home. We imitate; and what is imitation but the travelling of the mind?"
"There is no teaching until the pupil is brought into the same state or principle in which you are; a transfusion takes place; he is you, and you are he; then is a teaching; and by no unfriendly chance or bad company can he ever lose the benefit."
"The first in time and the first in importance of the influences upon the mind is that of nature. Every day, the sun; and after sunset, night and her stars. Ever the winds blow; ever the grass grows."
"I am not of the opinion generally entertained in this country [England], that man lives by Greek and Latin alone; that is, by knowing a great many words of two dead languages, which nobody living knows perfectly, and which are of no use in the common intercourse of life. Useful knowledge, in my opinion, consists of modern languages, history, and geography; some Latin may be thrown into the bargain, in compliance with custom, and for closet amusement."
"It is strange to contemplate how little sympathy or encouragement the great mass of people have with one who differs from them intastes, to the extent of desiring an education, while they are content with little or none."
"It is no small mischief to a boy, that many of the best years of his life should be devoted to the learning of what can never be of any real use to any human being. His mind is necessarily rendered frivolous and superficial by the long habit of attaching importance to words instead of things; to sound instead of sense."
"Those who first introduced compulsory education into American life knew exactly why children should go to school and learn to read: to save their souls.... Consistent with this goal, the first book written and printed for children in America was titled Spiritual Milk for Boston Babes in either England, drawn from the Breasts of both Testaments for their Souls' Nourishment."