Blog Post

#FutureEd, Contemporary Issues, and the Legacy of Modern Educational Reform

Dr. C. Hanford Henderson could be speaking for many of us involved in the #FutureEd initiative when he begins his “Aim of Higher Education” with the observation that “In venturing to speak or write about a topic so much spoken about and so much written about as education, one may be pardoned a little hesitation.”  I also take heed of Henderson’s observation that “In the midst of our present wealth of educational theories, the need seems not so much for any addition to them or any restatement of them as for a little genuine, wholesome action in carrying them into effect.” I agree with Henderson as he continues that the issue of education, “though old and so much discussed” is always new; that “the last word has not yet been spoken.”

As part of the #FutureEd initiative, we will be challenged by individuals such as Modestus who discovered to his “infinite mortification, that my former studies had been altogether misapplied and that in my present situation they availed me nothing."  Although he was once a proponent of the classical education that has been passed down since the age of Cicero, he is no longer sure that such a broad based education has the value to him that was promised.  Modestus is not hesitant to give examples of how the time he spent on his studies of the liberal arts has no application to the demands of his occupation.  When reading his essay, I could not help but think of the for-profit college that advertises “You won’t waste your time with unrelated skill development.”

M. Talleyrand-Perigord is also critical of modern education and has written a report “enumerating some of the defects which are so conspicuous in the present systems of education.”  Because he finds that “Education may be considered as the source of great benefit to society, as well as individuals,” he proposes a series of principles for modern education that include the premise that “Instruction should be affordable for all.”

Theodore D. Weld’s concerns about modern education are that it has become too cerebral; that it does not do enough to promote manual labor.  The elements that are part of the modern curriculum are important for #FutureEd.

 C.F. Andrews raises another subject that we will likely be discussing as part of the #FutureEd initiative:  the anglicization of education.  He is specifically concerned about the English exporting their values through educational dominance, but his arguments are sympathetic to the positions taken by scholars who address the privileges of those who are part of the dominant culture.  Hannah More is one of many whom have written specifically about women’s education.

As we consider the problems of modern education, we will likely debate whether there exists a natural propensity toward learning and whether or not private or public education should be preferred; two topics which Vicesimus Knox has written about in his Liberal Education.   In doing so, we will join Daniel P. Bartolus who writes in opposition to the many enemies of modern education.  We will also join Hooper in promoting systemic thinking.

During our discussions, one of the important issues we will consider is “the educational legacies we’ve inherited in order to design new ways of learning for present needs and future aspirations.”  This is a worthwhile approach because none of the authors mentioned above will be able to directly participate in any components designed as part of the #FutureEd initiative.  All are long dead.  However, they are part of the legacy we have inherited and they and their contemporaries have much to contribute to our own deliberations during #FutureEd.  As Henderson reminds us, “the last word has not yet been spoken.”


--Steven L. Berg, PhD



Andrews, C.F. "Indian Higher Education." Indian Higher Education. (January and February 2009). Summarized in The Theosophist: A Magazine of Brotherhood, Oriental Philosophy, Art, Literature, and Occultism. 30.6. (March 1909): 614. Google Book Search. Web.

Bartolus, Daniel P. "The Learned Man Defended and Reform'd; A Discourse of Singular Politeness, and Elocution; Reasonably Asserting the Right of the Muses; in Opposition to the Many Enemies which in this Age Learning Meets with, and More Especially Those Two Ignorance and Vice. Trans. Thomas Salusbury. London: R. and W. Leybourn, 1660. Google Book Search. Web.

Goodrich, Charles A. "Introduction." A History of the United States of America. New York: David M. Jewett, 1831. Google Book Search. Web.

Henderson, C. Hanford. "The Aim of Modern Education." Appleton's Popular Science Monthly. (August 1896): 485-501. Google Book Search. Web.

Rev. of Essays Moral, Philosophical, and Political. by Hooper. The Monthly Review or Literacy Journal. 46. (January-June, 1772): 382-389. Google Book Search. Web.

Knox, Vicesimus. Liberal Education: Or, a Practical Treatise on the Methods of Acquiring Useful and Polite Learning . Vol. 1. London: Charles Dilly. 1789. 2 vols. Google Book Search. Web.

Modestus. "Qualifications of a Country Clergyman by His Patron and His Patron's Family." The Lounger. 40 (5 Nov. 1785) Rpt. The Lounger: A Periodical Paper, Published in Edinburgh in the Years 1785-1786. Vol. 2. London: A Strahan and T. Cadwell. 3 vols. 34-38. Google Book Search. Web.

More, Hannah. Vol. 1. Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education with a View of the Principles and Conduct Prevalent Among Women of Rand and Fortune. 1799. New York: Evert Duyckinck, 1813. 2 vols. Google Book Search. Web.

Rev. of Raport fur l'Instrucion Publique, & c.. [A Report Concerning General Education, Made in the Name of the Committee of the Constitution to the National Assembly, on the 10th, 11th, and 19th of September 1791.] by M. de Talleyrand-Perigord. The MonthlyReview or Literacy Journal Enlarged. (September-December 1791): 496-500. Google Book Search. Web.

Weld, Theodore D. First Annual Report of the Society for Promoting Manuel Labor in Literary Institutions. New York: S.W. Benedict, 1833. Google Book Search. Web.


Additional references about issues facing "modern education" from different historical periods are being compiled on the Ocelot Scholars Reference page.

"#FutureEd, Contemporary Issues, and the Legacy of Modern Educational Reform" has been cross posted on the Ocelot Scholars website.


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