Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/403

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



THE contribution of America to education is in the realm of practical ideas and institutional organization, not in that of philosophical theory or of literature. Even an adequate literary expression of the practical ideals which have dominated in varying form from decade to decade, or of the institutions which sprang therefrom, is rarely found. For the most part the literature has been ephemeral, serving the purposes of its own generation but carrying no great message to subsequent ones; or incidental, forming but a minor interpolated part of some other type of literature. Not until our own generation has there arisen a philosopher to give vitalizing expression to the dominant progressive ideas of America, or scientists to apply in literary form their instruments and methods to the problems of education.

The colonists of the seventeenth century transplanted to a virgin soil the old institutions of Europe. Some, as those of the South or of New Nether land, sought a new home merely to better their economic condition—not to modify a social system with which they were otherwise well satisfied. Some, chiefly of the Middle Colonies, sought to escape from persecution and thus to preserve cherished institutions. Only those of New England were beckoned by the vision of new institutions and customs in conformity with ideals cherished in the home land but not to be realized there.

Of the first type, Berkeley, the testy governor of Virginia, is the best spokesman. Replying in 1672 to the inquiry of the home government as to what policy was pursued in the colony regarding the religious training and education of the youth and of the heathen, he wrote: "The same course that is taken in