Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 65. General Conclusions

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXIII. Education

§ 65. General Conclusions

On the whole, the literature of American education is typical of that education. In the past when education was a subordinate thing, a concern of the church or of the family or of the individual, the literature was fragmentary and interpolated. When education became general and technical in a crude way, a technical literature having similar crudities developed. With the fresh substance for literary creation at hand, furnished by savages, by frontier life, by the new life of freedom, with its new institutions, by ingenious conquest of the nation’s boundless wealth, the literary creator had no need to turn for materials for the imagination to the slightly stimulating and highly conventional life of the school taskmaster. Still is much of the present educational literature characterized too often by superficiality, as is our education; still is it inaccurate, as our educative processes are inexact; practical, as the demands of our lives are practical; still does it deal with immediate problems, as our education adn our social organization are bound to do. On the other hand, much of it has attained a scientific character unknown in any preceding period; some of it possesses a philosophical penetration and reveals a form of exposition worthy of the best of any period. Much of it is rich in the promise of the future. In some respects even the practical working idealism of American life, usually concealed under a materialistic exterior, finds expression in literary forms worthy of its conscious, though usually unexpressed, purposes.