The Progression of Henry Adams’ Education
Education is vital to human development. This is believed because if it weren’t for education, one’s knowledge would never fully develop, and maturity could not be reached. Although some may be resistant to education that is forced upon them such as undergraduate studies, these vital years may just set the stage for the rest of one’s scholastic career. A suitable representative of this description would be Henry Adams, a man who at first hated the education he was receiving, only then to later become a professor and honored scholar. Adams wrote an essay entitled “The Education of Henry Adams” which demonstrated to the world his rapid progress in wisdom due to his education not only through schooling, but through travel, exploration, and the search for his own identity. The three selected chapters from his essay reflect Adams’ progression of personal education, the kind of knowledge one receives through self-teaching. Although education may start out as “boring” or “worthless,” it certainly always pays off in the end, and Henry Adams is to prove. As most undergraduates may, Adams describes his early education has an “intolerable bore” in the chapter titled “Harvard College (1854-58.)” He felt as though he was born matured past high school, as if he wouldn’t have been any less knowledgeable if he hadn’t attended the Private Latin School of E.S. Dixwell. Despite the fact that he despised this education, he was more than willing to attend Harvard College as most other young men did. He mentions that nobody takes Harvard seriously, and students enrolled because their friends did. It was a liberal school which sent its students into the world with just enough to make amends and be decent citizens, but not necessarily extraordinary. Adams defined the faculty as poor and the education delivered was not needed. The four years spent learning at the institution could have been condensed into four months, as Adams views it. Although he condemns his school for his lack of learning, he also blames himself for his absence of development in means of intelligence and maturity. Even after his graduation at Harvard, he states that his education still had not begun. During this chapter of his life at the College, Adams was acquainted with a few Southerners from Virginia that he was tremendously prejudiced against. This narrow-mindedness was shaped by societal norms, his upbringing, and his lack of cultural education and exploration. Although Adams describes his education at Harvard as a waste of time, he did meet a professor who grew to be a prominent figure in his life. James Russell Lowe was a professor of languages at Harvard for twenty years. He introduced Adams to his fascination with Germany after traveling there and bringing back a great amount of cultural information and experience to teach in his classes. His way of teaching was very different than any other professors that Adams had, he met with his students outside of class and encouraged them one-on-one, which was uncommon during this time. It is believed that Lowe learned this way of teaching through Germany as well. As much as Adams may not want to believe it, he did gain some knowledge at Harvard College that he applied later in life. “Self-possession was the strongest part of Harvard College,” quotes Adams in this chapter. He learned basic skills that he later exceled in such as speaking and writing. This education set the stage for the rest of his academic life. Later in Henry Adams’ essay, he writes a chapter entitled “The Dynamo and the Virgin (1900.)” During this time in his life, Adams is spending the summer in Paris, France and is infatuated with the Paris Exposition, a world's fair held from April 15th to the 12th of November 1900, to celebrate the achievements of the past century and to accelerate development after a period of war. He is also enthralled in medieval philosophy, which has been his main reading topic for the...
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