Inquire Within : Philosopher and social activist John Stuart Mill discusses the most liberating kind of education.
Inquire Within

Abridged from ‘Autobiography’, by John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).

J.S. Mill was educated at home by his eminent father, and the experience was a bruising one. He wished that his father had been more patient, but he was profoundly grateful that, unlike many of his contemporaries, he had not merely been trained to meet conventional school targets, but empowered throughout his life to set his own.

MOST boys or youths who have had much knowledge drilled into them, have their mental capacities not strengthened, but overlaid by it.

They are crammed with mere facts, and with the opinions or phrases of other people, and these are accepted as a substitute for the power to form opinions of their own; and thus the sons of eminent fathers, who have spared no pains in their education, so often grow up mere parroters of what they have learnt, incapable of using their minds except in the furrows traced for them.

Mine, however, was not an education of cram. My father never permitted anything which I learnt to degenerate into a mere exercise of memory. He strove to make the understanding not only go along with every step of the teaching, but, if possible, precede it. Anything which could be found out by thinking I never was told, until I had exhausted my efforts to find it out for myself.

A pupil from whom nothing is ever demanded which he cannot do, never does all he can.

Abridged from ‘Autobiography’, by John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).

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