William Wilberforce

For the tastes of many, possibly too many, I refer back to areas blank or incomplete in their education. Those of you peeved by my habit, feel free to be so, but recall the peeve belongs more to those who shorted you than to me who highlights the gap. Something left out is a shortage as critical to flight as is consideration of landing.

A useful education depends on what’s learned. Was my education exceptional? Not for a time when a Grammar School (8 – 4 system) education was far as many went. My parents began their working (not yet independent of family) lives with a diploma at Grade Eight, though dad went to trade school where draftsmanship and math led him to a specialized field.

How long ago was that? Not even a century, so not an ancient time. Pause. Rather recently, then, a young person of 13 or 14 was seen fit to launch their personal vessel onto the roiling sea. In the cases of my parents, they were semi-independent living at home and contributing to family welfare.

What’s the actual benefit of prolonging the life-launch by another four or eight years? Is it good for an organism to remain so long in the nest? In nature once the fledging is done the chick has to fly. It’s either that or die lonely and starved in a nest no longer in or of use.

It’s worth considering, says I who go overboard on book learning, the impact of prolonged schooling and delay. We require more time to fledge than does an avian, but comparing the 13- to 20-year-old chick gives some cause to pause and consider.

Maybe some chicks should be out of the nest and begin their lives before dependence sinks too deep in them. Honest with you, I have not an answer. But it does seem a thing of interest to observe in a few generations the considerable extension of sheltering. At six foot ten and 200 pounds a human no longer seems, at least to me, a chick. It is worth a thought that prolonging (no matter how well intended) chickhood may not be all that good for the chick. Ask many a parent ‘bout that.

So, back to the ancients (I don’t give up easily) the age of adulthood roughly coincided with sexual maturity. For a few thousand years, anyway, the age similar to ending Grammar School, was the marker. Moving that line in a few generations might warrant a moment of your consideration. Nothing you or I can do, really, but a bit more depth perception may be useful.

The Ports were well ahead in the education game. Old Central stood prominent proof of belief in education. Doesn’t seem so now, but that clock tower spoke to all. The time for learning was now. Folks lived near work and wanted education for their children.

Be well aware that at a time when 8 grades was IT, further public education for all promised more, a full four levels more. Ordinary people believed in learning.

In the same era West Range, Hibbing and East Range, Aurora (where I matriculated) built educational monuments. Somewhat selfish but beneficial, the mines sought to get and keep skilled employees by offering their youngsters a quality education. Maybe even lavish, mining money was so abundant all I had to bring was my own jock, socks and tenners. The school provided everything else – pencils, paper and notebooks included.

Mining ensured we lacked for little, the effort was up to us. If vast Hibbing High (comparable to four Presidential White Houses) is an exception, belief in education was carried forward in little two-room Toimi where locals came together to build a place for students.

If you look around you’ll spot bits from the era of belief in education. So what happened?

As a credentialed drunk I learned and can attest to a pernicious danger. Few things do in a person (or society?) faster than success. But rather than grouse and opine let’s examine a few big factors moving society forward in the not-so-distant past.

You can look into things and form your own conclusions, but in my view two major movements came to life at roughly the same time. These are 1, end of slavery and 2, end of illiteracy.

In neither, seems to me, was there a political aim aside from supporters wishing better things for individuals and society. In general our British origins played a role because both abolition and literacy were, so to speak, offspring of the empire and each having heavenly aspirations.

Religious reformers (see Wilberforce) saw all souls equal in the eyes of God and believed this equality should exist as well in society. To some extent as well, literacy was seen as a way to uplift all souls by giving access to higher, holier principles, namely reading the Bible.

Gads, how big things often have unexpected origins.

At the time of our Civil War most people were barely literate or functionally illiterate, soldiers, as example, often relying on others to write their letters and read aloud the news. In 1870 the British Public Literacy Act spurred schools for the general population, a movement that soon spread to the U.S. and much of Europe.

From that a single generation brings us to the establishment of significant public schools in the Twin Ports, etc. Societal commitment to the goals of improving public life by intellectually enriching individuals through Public Education took the dramatic and visible form of building substantial structures for elementary and higher learning.  

Some, not I, might argue advancing the individual was done for the good of religion or for the purposes of a collective or particular party. Others, again not I, may hold individual improvement has value primarily in service of religious or political belief.

A way to frame this, not that I pick a side, is education and freedom serving individuals or collectives. Not an easy one to decide. What’s your view? Mine? The two Rs of resentment and retribution are an ill replacement 3 R’s