Introduction (pages 7-11)
The book opens with a personal cri de couer: “There must be in the world many parents who, like the present author, have young children whom they are anxious to educate as well as possible, but reluctant to expose to the evils of most existing educational institutions [p. 7].” The alternative of home schooling deprives children of companionship, and makes them feel that they are odd. Rich parents need only to find one accessible, acceptable school, but working-class parents need general educational reforms to ensure that they can secure a good education for their children. Surely different parents will have strikingly different views about what reforms would be desirable. Nevertheless, advances in psychology and pedagogy offer advice that should receive broad assent – advice that is especially relevant for the education of very young children.
The book will proceed by looking at the goals of education, and makes a distinction between the education of character and the acquisition of knowledge, though these are not entirely independent elements. The early years will receive a good deal of attention; eventually, however, the discussion will comprise all of the years of formal education, through university. Learning beyond the years of schooling will not be addressed, though early education should be heavily concerned with making people capable of life-long learning through experience.