Good Education Inspires the Soul, says John Adams

Ten years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams penned a diary entry in which he briefly explores the purpose of education.  Though education does not find its way into the US Constitution, reading Adams’ words provides some insight into how its inclusion might have been framed.  He writes:

I have neither Time, nor a Capacity sufficient to trace the progress of civilization, to the pitch, at which it has arrived in most parts of the Earth at present. The advantages of Education are so well known that they need not to be mentioned: nor is it necessary to observe that youth is the Time for the improvement of the heart, and of the understanding. At that time of Life the mind, like wax readily receives every impression that is applied to it: A Good Education inspires the Soul with those exalted, and divine Sentiments, which form, the Patriot and the Sage; which warm the breast of the Hero, cause him to spurn every Idea of fear, and to think with the Roman Poet, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,” which raise the voice of the Orator to speak in thunder, for the Cause of his Country, and which shew Man, at the highest degree of Perfection, to which the supreme being is pleased he should arrive. Or as it has been beautifully expressed in Verse.

In the pure mind at those ambiguous Years,
Or Vice, rank weed! first strikes her poisonous Root
Or haply, Virtue’s opening bud appears,
By just degrees, fair bloom, of fairest Fruit.
For if on youth’s untainted thought imprest,
The generous Purpose still, shall warm the manly breast.

Finis

Besides this we had an extempore disputation on the Question; whether a public Education, was more advantageous, than a private one?

Compare Adams’ view of education with others of his day, like Jefferson’s or Hamilton’s.