I was reading a chapter titled "The Education of Our Boys, in a book called Our Home and he is describing the values of education, natural and academic; and after offering hope that most can find a way for an education, the author offers principles to those who are the least likely to get educated --
“At any rate, all may become well educated. Those men are almost numberless who have become great and useful by the light of a pine torch, who have learned the science of mathematics with a stick for a pencil and the ocean beach for a slate.
But suppose we meet the barefoot boy in the street picking rags, what word of advice have we for him? He will listen to all our fine talk about grand possibilities which are offered to the poorest and the worthiest in our great communities; he will listen to the story of those great souls who have climbed to glory over fence rails and canal boats; and when we have finished he will meet us with the question, “What shall I do and how shall I begin?”
Let us see if we can answer these questions. As the first step toward the desired result, he can pick up a rag, just as he has been wont to do, and examine it, not as heretofore with the simple purpose of determining whether he shall put it into one or the other of two baskets; but he can make it a text-book with which to begin an education. He can ask those older and wiser than himself what it is made of and how it is made. They will point him to the great mill yonder, where, if he tells his purpose, he can gain admission and learn something of the mechanical principles involved in the manufacture of the rag. If he continues to make inquiries until he can trace a piece of cotton through all its transformations, till it comes out a piece of fine bleached cotton, he has surely begun an education in earnest. He can save a penny a day for a few days and buy a primer, and with that primer under his arm he may politely approach any lady or gentleman with these words, “I am determined to make the most of myself. I want to learn to read. I have bought a little book. Can you give me any advice or help?”
There is not a man or woman in all that great city with a heart so hard as not to be melted to sympathy by that appeal. He would be astonished at the amount of love and sympathy and philanthropy in the world which he before had considered so cold and heartless.
Young man, -- bootblack, rag-picker, obscure farmer boy, or dweller in the dingy haunts of the city, -- remember that Freedom’s goddess holds over your head a crown. But she never puts that crown on any but a sweaty brow, -- the royal symbol of effort and worth.”