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Excerpt from An Address on Southern Education Delivered July 18, 1859, Before the Faculty, Trustees, Students, and Patrons of Madison College, Sharon, Mississippi
Fellow-citizens - Ladies and Gentlemen:
Southern education is a subject in which we all have the deepest interest. In selecting it as the foundation of a few remarks to-day I have been actuated by no feeling of unkindness to the North, but by a sincere desire to contribute somewhat to the permanent prosperity of the South. If the cause of education has been nurtured and cherished at the North until its advantages are universally recognized, we surely have no reason to be envious or jealous; but rather, learning wisdom from experience, we should strive with greater zeal to emulate a good example.
To educate the common mind is the first duty of us all. It is a duty we owe to ourselves, our children, our country, and our God. To educate the rising generation is a high duty; to educate it correctly is yet a higher duty. Every son and daughter should be schooled for that position which he or she is expected to occupy in future life. If children are dedicated to their country - as all children should be - it is vastly important that their minds be so trained as to make them in all regards the most useful members of society. If they are to live in the South, and follow Southern occupations, it is of the very last importance that they receive Southern educations.
I propose to treat the subject under several heads, and very briefly. First, the advantages of education. It sometimes happens that uneducated men or women make efficient members of society; but more frequently they become drones in the great hive of life, subsist on other people's labor, or else fall into habits of vice, drawl out a miserable existence, and end their days in penury and want. Individual instances I know there are, where men and women educated in the highest schools, and in all the erudition of the books, have still fallen. But these are exceptions to the general rule; and when they have happened there has almost always been some defect, some fatal error, in the domestic fireside training of the child. The statistics of our prisons and alms-houses show that seven-tenths of all the inmates are totally uneducated, or, if educated at all, so imperfectly as to leave the mind almost a total blank. If, then, we would have our children become useful members of society, adorning and beautifying the walks of life, we must educate them.
Nothing is more common than to hear it said of a boy, there is no use educating him at college; he is going to be a farmer, and if he learns to read, and write, and cipher, that will do. Or, if he chance to be a little slow, it is said of him, he is a dull fellow any way - can never make much figure in the world; give him a plain education, and let him go. These are popular but very foolish errors.
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