Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Role of the Home in Making Practical Men

"A distinguished American writer says: 'The training and improvement of the physical, intellectual, social, and moral powers and sentiments of the youth of our country require something more than the school-house, academy, college, and university. The young mind should receive judicious training in the field, in the garden, in the barn, in the workshop, in the parlor, in the kitchen—in a word, around the hearthstone at home. Whatever intellectual attainments your son may have acquired, he is unfit to go forth into society if he has not had thrown around him the genial and purifying influences of parents, sisters, brothers, and the man-saving influence of the family government. The nation must look for virtue, wisdom, and strength to the education that controls and shapes the home policy of the family circle. There can be no love of country where there is no love of home. Patriotism, true and genuine, the only kind worthy of the name, derives its mighty strength from fountains that gush out around the hearthstone; and those who forget to cherish the household interests will soon learn to look with indifference upon the interests of their common country. We must cultivate the roots, not the tops. We must make the family government, the school, the farm, the church, the shop, the agricultural fairs, the laboratories of our future greatness. We must educate our sons to be farmers, artisans, architects, engineers, geologists, botanists, chemists—in a word, practical men. Their eyes must be turned from Washington to their States, counties, townships, districts, homes.'"

The originator of these words is identified only as "a distinguished American writer," quoted by Edmund Morris in his circa 1867 book, Farming for Boys. (Italics in the original.) The book is being serialized in Small Farmer's Journal. This quote is from Part VI, Chapter XIV, of the book reproduced in SFJ, Winter 2012, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 34-38.

When I read this quote I was struck by the absence of such a worldview in modern literature. I read a lot, and these words jumped out at me as being from a different era. But regardless of era, they convey a settled way of thinking about life that is missing from postmodern thinking: the source of true education, the purpose of the home, how boys learn to be men, the intended distant influence of Washington, and others. Some will rail against pre-modern (1867) writing that excludes "girls" from the focus of training in the home. Note that this is a book titled Farming for Boys. If this author's point was to outline a system of industry for boys, the outline of a similarly vigorous industry for girls could be gleaned from Proverbs 31:10-31.

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