1841 09 Mann (Horace) Inquiry
 
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THE FIFTH ANNUAL REPORT (1841)
THE EFFECT OF EDUCATION UPON THE WORLDLY FORTUNES OF MEN
BY HORACE MANN

INQUIRY 1841

GENTLEMEN, --

. . .The declination of the sun towards the southern tropic is not more certainly followed by winter, with all its blankness and sterility, nor does the ascension of that luminary towards our own part of the heavens more certainly bring on summer, with all its beauty and abundance, than does the want or the enjoyment of education degrade or elevate the condition of a people. I will occupy the short space which propriety allows to me, in concluding this Report, by showing the effect of education upon the worldly fortunes and estates of men, -- its influence upon property, upon human comfort and competence, upon the outward, visible, material interests of well-being of individuals and communities.

This view, so far from being the highest which can be taken of the beneficent influences of education, may, perhaps, be justly regarded as the lowest. But it is a palpable view. It presents an aspect of the subject susceptible of being made intelligible to all; and, therefore, it will meet the case of thousands who are now indifferent about the education of their offspring, because they foresee no re-imbursement in kind, no return in money, or in money’s worth, for money expended. The co-operation of this numerous class is indispensable, in order to carry out the system; and if they can be induced to educate their children, even from inferior motives, the children, when educated, will feel its higher and nobler affinities.

So, too, in regard to towns. If it can be proved that the aggregate wealth of a town will be increased just in proportion to the increase of its appropriations for schools, the opponents of such a measure will be silenced. The tax for this purpose, which they now look upon as a burden, they will then regard as a profitable investment. Let it be shown that the money which is now clung to by the parent, in the hope of increasing his children’s legacies some six or ten per cent. can be so invested as to double their patrimony, and the blind instinct of parental love, which now, by voice and vote, opposes such outlay, will become an advocate for the most generous endowments. When the money expended for education shall be viewed in its true character, as seed-grain sown in a soil which is itself enriched by yielding, then the most parsimonious will not stint the sowing, lest the harvest also should be stinted, and thereby thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold should be lost to the garners.

I am the more induced to take this view of the subject, because the advocates and eulogists of education have rarely, if ever, descended to so humble a duty as to demonstrate its pecuniary value both to individuals and to society. They have expended their strength in 
 
 
 
portraying its loftier attributes, its gladdening, refining, humanizing tendencies. They have not deigned to show how it can raise more abundant harvests, and multiply the conveniences of domestic life; how it can build, transport, manufacture, mine, navigate, fortify; how, in fine, a single new idea is often worth more to an individual than a hundred workmen, and to a nation than the addition of provinces to its territory. I have novel and striking evidence to prove that education is convertible into houses and lands, as well as into power and virtue. 

Although, therefore, this utilitarian view of education, as it may be called, which regards it as the dispenser of private competence, and the promoter of national wealth, it by no means the first which would address itself to an enlightened and benevolent mind, yet it will be found to possess intrinsic merits, and to be worthy of the special regard, not only of the political economist, but of the lawgiver and moralist. Nature fastens upon us original and inexorable necessities in regard to food, raiment, and shelter. Though these physical wants are among the lowest that belong to our being, yet there is a view of them which is not sordid or ignoble. They must be first served, because, if denied, forthwith the race is extinct. They domineer over us; and, until supplied, their importunate clamor will drown every appeal to higher capacities. No hungry or houseless people ever were, or ever will be, an intelligent or a moral one. It is found that the church, the lecture-room, and the hall of science, flourish best where regard is paid to the institution for savings. The divine charities of Christian love are often straitened, because our means of benevolence fall short of our desires.

I proceed, then, to show that education has a power of ministering to our personal and material wants beyond all other agencies, whether excellence of climate, spontaneity of production, mineral resources, or mines of silver and gold. Every wise parent and community, desiring the prosperity of their children, even in the most worldly sense, will spare no pains in giving them a generous education. 

During the past year, I have opened a correspondence, and availed myself of all opportunities to hold personal interviews, with many of the most practical sagacious, and intelligent business-men amongst us, who for many years have had large numbers of persons in their employment. My object has been to ascertain the difference in the productive ability—where natural capacities have been equal—between the educated and the uneducated; between a man or woman whose mind has been awakened to thought and supplied with the rudiments of knowledge by a good common-school education and one whose faculties have never been developed, or aided in emerging from their original darkness and torpor, by such a privilege. For this purpose I have conferred and corresponded with manufacturers of all kinds, with machinists, engineers railroad contractors, officers in the army, &c. These various classes of persons have means of determining the effects of education on individuals, equal in their natural abilities, which other classes do not possess. A farmer hiring a laborer for one season, who has received a good common-school education, and, the ensuing season, hiring another who has not enjoyed this advantage, although he may be personally convinced of the relative value or profitableness of their services, will rarely have any exact data or tests to refer to by which he can measure the superiority of the former over the latter. They do not work side by side, so that he can 
 
 
 
institute a comparison between the amounts of labor they perform. They may cultivate different fields, where the ease of tillage or the fertility of the soils may be different. They may rear crops under the influence of different seasons, so that he cannot discriminate between what is referable to the bounty of Nature, and what to superiority in judgment or skill. Similar difficulties exist in estimating the amount and value of female labor in the household. And as to the mechanic also, the carpenter, the mason, the blacksmith, the tool-maker of any kind, there are a thousand circumstances which we call accidental, that mingle their influences in giving quality and durability to their work, and prevent us from making a precise estimate of the relative value of any two men’s handicraft. Individual differences too, in regard to a single article, or a single day’s work, may be too minute to be noticed or appreciated, while the aggregate of these differences at the end of a few years may make all the differences between a poor man and a rich man. No observing man can have failed to notice the difference between two workmen, one of whom – to use a proverbial expression – always hits the nail on the head, while the other loses half his strength, and destroys half his nails, by the awkwardness of his blows; but perhaps few men have thought of the difference in the results of two such men’s labor at the end of twenty years.

But when hundreds of men or women work side by side, in the same factory, at the same machinery, in making the same fabrics, and, by a fixed rule of the establishment, labor the same number of hours each day; and when, also, the products of each operative can be counted in number, weighed by the pound, or measured by the yard or cubic foot, -- then it is perfectly practicable to determine with arithmetical exactness the productions of one individual and one class as compared with those of another individual and another class.

So where there are different kinds of labor, some simple, others complicated, and, of course, requiring different degrees of intelligence and skill, it is easy to observe what class of persons rise form a lower to a higher grade of employment. 

This, too, is not to be forgotten, -- that in a manufacturing or mechanical establishment, or among a set of hands engaged in filling up a valley or cutting down a hill, where scores of people are working together, the absurd and adventitious distinctions of society do not intrude. The capitalist and his agents are looking for the greatest amount of labor, or the largest income in money from their investments; and they do not promote a dunce to a station where he will destroy raw material, or slacken industry, because of his name or birth or family connections. The obscurest and humblest person has an open and fair field for competition. That he proves himself capable of earning more money for his employer is a testimonial better than a diploma from all the colleges.

Now, many of the most intelligent and valuable men in our community, in compliance with my request, -- for which I tender them my public and grateful acknowledgements, -- have examined their books for a series of years, and have ascertained both the quality and the amount of work performed by persons in their employment; and the result of the investigation is a most astonishing superiority, in productive power, on the part of the educated over the uneducated laborer. The hand is found to be another hand when guided 
 
 
 
by an intelligent mind. Processes are performed, not only more rapidly, but better, when faculties which have been exercised in early life furnish their assistance. Individuals who, without the aid of knowledge, would have been condemned to perpetual inferiority of condition, and subjected to all the evils of want and poverty, rise to competence and independence by the uplifting power of education. In great establishments, and among large bodies of laboring men, where all services are rated according to their pecuniary value; where there are no extrinsic circumstances to bind a man down to a fixed position, after he has shown a capacity to rise above it; where, indeed men pass by each other, ascending or descending in their grades of labor, just as easily and certainly as particles of water of different degrees of temperature glide by each other, -- there it is found as an almost invariable fact, other things being equal, that those who have been blessed with a good common-school education rise to a higher and higher point in the kinds of labor performed, and also in the rate of wages paid, while the ignorant sink like dregs, and are always found at the bottom.

I now proceed to lay before the Board some portions of the evidence I have obtained, first inserting my Circular Letter, in answer to which, communications have been made.

CIRCUATION LETTER

To --- ---.,

Dear Sir, -- My best and only apology for taking the liberty to address you will be found in the object I have in view, which, therefore, I proceed to state without further preface.
In fulfilling the duties with which I have been intrusted by the Board of Education, I am led into frequent conversation and correspondence, not only with persons in every part of the State, but more or less with every class and description of persons in the whole community.

I regret to say, that among these I occasionally meet with individuals, who, although very differently circumstanced in life, cordially agree in their indifference towards the cause of common education; and some of whom even profess to be alarmed at possible mischiefs that may come in its train, and therefore stand in its path, and obstruct its advancement.

The individuals who thus maintain an attitude of neutrality, or assume one of active opposition, are either persons who, in their worldly circumstances, are deemed the favorites of fortune, or they are persons who are alike strangers to mental cultivation, and to all the outward and ordinary signs of temporal prosperity. In a word, they are found, in regard to their worldly condition, at the two extremes of the social scale. I would by no means be understood to say, that any considerable proportion of the men of wealth amongst us look with an unfriendly eye on the general diffusion of the means of knowledge. On the contrary, some of the best friends of education are to be found amongst this class, who, uniting abundance of means with benevolence of disposition, are truly efficient in advancing the work. Nor, on this subject, are the lines of demarcation between parties broadly drawn; but they shade off, by imperceptible degrees, from friends to opponents.
 
 
 
But this I do mean to say, that there are men of wealth and leisure, too numerous to be overlooked in a calculation of friendly and of adverse agencies, who profess to fear that a more thorough and comprehensive education for the whole people will destroy contentment, loosen habits of industry, engender a false ambition, and prompt to an incursion into their own favored sphere, by which great loss will accrue to themselves, without any corresponding benefit to the invaders.

The other class are those who, suffering from a neglected or a perverted education in themselves, seem incapable of appreciating either the temporal and material well-being, or the mental elevation and enjoyment, which it is the prerogative of a good education to confer. These two parties, though alien from each other in all other respects, are allies here; and although, with the exception of a very few towns in the Commonwealth, they are not numerically strong, yet, but adroitly implicating other questions with that of Public Schools, they are able in many cases to baffle all efforts at reform and improvement.

The views of these parties I believe to be radically wrong, anti-social, anti-Republican, anti-Christian; and I believe that all action in pursuance of them will impair the best interests of society, and originate a train of calamities, in which not only their advocates, but all portions of the community, will be involved. Convinced that such is the inevitable and accelerating tendency of such views, it seems to me to be the duty of the friends of mankind to meet them with fairness and a conciliatory spirit indeed, but with earnestness and energy, and to confute them by the production of evidence and the exposition of principles.

It is for this reason that I address you, and solicit a reply, founded upon your personal knowledge, to the following questions: --

First, -- Have you had large numbers of persons in your employment or under your superintendence? If so, will you please to state how many? Within what period of time? In what department of business? Whether at different places? Whether natives or foreigners?

Second, -- Have you observed differences among the persons you have employed, growing out of differences in their education, and independent of their natural abilities; that is, whether, as a class, those who from early life have been accustomed to exercise their minds by reading and studying have greater docility and quickness in applying themselves to work? and, after the simples details are mastered, have they greater aptitude, dexterity, or ingenuity in comprehending ordinary processes, or in origination new ones? Do they more readily or frequently devise new modes by which that same amount of work can be better done, or by which more work can be done in the same time, or by which raw material or motive-power can be economized? In short, do you obtain more work and better work, with less waste, from those who have received what, in Massachusetts, we call a good common-school education, or from those who have grown up in neglect and ignorance? Is 
 
 
 
there any difference in the earnings of these two classes, and consequently in their wages?

Third, -- What, within your knowledge, has been the effect of higher degrees of mental application and culture upon the domestic and social habits of persons in your employment? Is this class more cleanly in their persons, their dress, and their households? and do they enjoy a greater immunity from those diseases which originate in a want of personal neatness and purity? Are they more exemplary in their deportment and conversation, devoting more time to intellectual pursuits or to the refining art of music, and spending their evenings and leisure hours more with their families, and less at places of resort for idle and dissipated men? Is a smaller portion of them addicted to intemperance? Are their houses kept in a superior condition? Does a more economical and judicious mode of living purchase greater comforts at the same expense, or equal comforts with less means? Are their families better brought up, more respectably dressed, more regularly attendant upon the school and the church? and do their children, when arrived at years of maturity, enter upon the active scenes of life with better prospects of success?

Fourth, -- In regard to standing and respectability among co-laborers, neighbors, and fellow-citizens generally, how do those who have enjoyed and improved the privilege of good common schools compare with the neglected and illiterate? Do the former exercise greater influence among their associates? Are they more often applied to for advice and counsel in case of difficulty, or selected as umpires or arbitrators for the decisions of minor controversies? Are higher and more intelligent circles for acquaintance open to them, from conversation and intercourse with which their own minds can be constantly improved? Are they more likely to rise from grade to grade in the scale of labor, until they enter departments where greater skill, judgment, and responsibility are required, and which therefore command a larger remuneration? Are they more likely to rise from the condition of employés, and to establish themselves in business on their own account?

Fifth, -- Have you observed any difference in the classes above named (I speak of them as classes, for there will, of course, be individual exceptions) in regard to punctuality and fidelity in the performance of duties? Which class is most regardful of the rights of others, and most intelligent and successful in securing their own? You will, of course, perceive that this question involves a more general one; viz., from which of the above-described classes have those who possess property, and who hope to transmit it to their children, most to fear from secret aggression, or from such public degeneracy as will loosen the bands of society, corrupt the testimony of witnesses, violate the sanctity of the juror's oath, and substitute, as a rule of right, the power of a numerical majority for the unvarying principles of justice?

Sixth, -- Finally, in regard to those who posses the largest shares in the stock of worldly goods, could there, in your opinion, be any police so vigilant and effective, for the protection of all the rights of person, property, and character, as such a sound and comprehensive education and training as our system of common schools could be made to impart? and would not the payment of a sufficient tax to make such education and training 
 
 
 
universal be the cheapest means of self-protection and insurance? And in regard to that class which, from the accident of birth and parentage, are subjected to the privations and the temptations of poverty, would not such an education open to them new resources in habits of industry and economy, in increased skill, and the awakening of inventive power, which would yield returns a thousand-fold greater than can ever be hoped for from the most successful clandestine depredations, or open invasion of the property of others?

I am aware, my dear, sir, that, to every intelligent and reflecting man, these inquiries will seem superfluous and nugatory; and your first impulse may be to put some such interrogatory to me in reply, as whether the sun has any influence on vegetable growth, or whether it is expedient to have windows in our houses for the admission of light. I acknowledge the close analogy of the cases in point of self-evidence; but my reply is, that while we have influential persons, who dwell with us in the same common mansion of society, and who, having secured for themselves a few well-lighted apartments, now insist that total darkness is better for a portion of the occupants born and dwelling under the same roof; and while; unfortunately, a portion of these benighted occupants, from never having seen more than the feeblest glimmerings of the light of day, insist that it is better for them and their children to remain blind; while these opinions continue to exist, I hold that it is necessary to adduce facts and arguments, and to present motives, which shall prove, both to the blinded and those who would keep them so, the value and beauty of light.

Horace Mann,
Secretary of the Board of Education

P.S. If the above shall give you a general outline of my object, I would thank you to fill it up, even though parts of it may not be distinctly indicated by the questions.
 
 

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