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Henry Adams View On Education Applied To Education Today

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The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same: A Comparison of

Henry Adams View on Education Applied to Education Today

Henry Adams laments his education at Harvard. Adams repeatedly expresses distain in his formal education, grounded in the classics, history, and literature, which was the of way education during his time. "Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts"(42). His education did not give him the scientific and mathematical knowledge needed to grasp the scientific breakthroughs that happened during his lifetime. Adams identified problems with his education, from the lack of diversity, to the "stamp" Harvard put on its students before sending them off. The educational issues that Adams saw and deplored during his time at Harvard are still around today.

The Education of Henry Adams does use an interesting literary device that adds to the narrative--third person. Since Adams writes this narrative from the reflective perspective at an old age, the third person perspective makes a separation from himself that allows for him to seem as an observer away from the situation. This allows Henry Adams to write and not have the readers thoughts diverted by the use of "I". Writing in the third person allowed for freedom when commenting on the actions of Henry Adams's youth and education. This is because the criticism of Harvard might be easier to dismiss if it came from the defiant twenty-year-old Adams.

Adams viewed Harvard as only producing identical people with little diversity. "In four years of Harvard College, if successful, resulted in an autobiographical blank, a mind on which only a water-mark had been stamped"(32). When referring to the stamp Adams is surprised the, "Stamp of education does not ruin everybody concerned in it, teachers and taught"(32). Adams viewed the stamp in most ways as a negative. The students were at Harvard to serve their time and move on. That real education was to be done away from institutions like Harvard.

Today we also have the stamp in education, all be in a slightly different sense. In Henry Adams's time it was important to get the stamp from a Harvard education. This was so one could say they went to Harvard to become a certain type of person. A person that would have certain ideals and a way of thinking that would not shake up society. This issue is also leading to stagnation in the modern university as well. A person needs to get their own stamp of the type of thinking needed to exist at colleges today. The college student of today must be ready to work for a company, fit into the mold of a college student, take MGM'S, and be ready to be a number in life after leaving college. Students today leave college not being able to learn, but are only able to assimilate into the part of society they were fitted for. .

Another issue Adams had with education was that there was no one from to learn. "If the student got little from his mates, he got little more from his masters"(35). Adams talked about how little he got from his class mates. He talked about how students are only one of a hundred and that there was little difference between them. This similarity of backgrounds and the fact that as students they were there for themselves, it leads to a hole in ones education.

In education today very little is learned from other students. The current model is that the professor is the only person with valuable information. It is also believed that students are generally all the same and can be treated the same. St. Cloud State University does not have an analogous student population as Harvard did in the 1800's. However, the students of St. Cloud State University are treated the same; twentyish, inexperienced, need to be a sponge and then regurgitate the information. Classes today and then would be more interesting if students could be used as teachers. I am not talking like a T.A., but as people that can offer a way of looking at an issue different from the teacher. So a student at near the same level of understanding can look at the issue as a developing idea and work to develop knowledge. Rather than have the completed thought put forth by a teacher. Teachers have the answers and students must know them. the creating of new knowledge can be lost on the teacher.

Adams hit on another truth in education and life when referring to how a person is expected to follow a certain path. Adams refers to why Henry Adams was ready to go on to Harvard:

The next regular step was Harvard College. He was more than glad to go. For generation after generation, Adamses and Brookses and Boylstons and Gorhams had gone to Harvard College, and although none of them, as far as known, had ever done any good there, or thought himself the better for it, custom, social ties, convenience, and, above all, economy, kept each generation in the track. Any other education would have required a serious effort, but no one took Harvard College seriously. All went there because their friends went there, and the College was their ideal of social self-respect. (32)

Students today go to college right after high school because it is expected. As students, we are supposed to move to the next step of education as soon as possible. It is also a level of social self-respect to graduate from collage. If a person in our society does not have an education past high school, they are looked down upon no matter what they may offer.

Adams also had views that are relevant in today's educational and political arena. Adams wrote, "The Bostonian education at Harvard College remained a collegian. If parents went on generation after generation, sending their children to Harvard college for the sake of its social advantages, they perpetuated an inferior social type, quite as ill-fitted as the Oxford type for success in the next generation" (39). Now this is very prudent today in people that have been handed the social connections of Ivy League educations and family ties: Bush, Gore, and Kerry. These people have got to where they are through connections and influence. However, they are ill prepared for what they do. They do not have a grasp of middle class issues and they could not go out and buy a carton of milk. An education based on the proliferation of social and economical norms does not make a proper education.

Henry Adams also had some interesting complaints of his days at college that had little merit. However, I see past college students and older adults do this all the time. Adams complains that he was not taught the correct things in college. He complains that, "Beyond



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