The Education of Henry Adams

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"His work seemed to him thin, commonplace, feeble. At times he felt his own weakness so fatally that he could not go on; when he had nothing to say, he could not say it, and he found that he had very little to say at best" (Adams 39). Having been born into the upper class, Henry Adams graduated from high school and then for him, "the next regular step was Harvard" (Adams 32). Through Adam's essay, "The Education of Henry Adams", it is clear that the education he received at Harvard was plagued by his negative mindset that was triggered by his social status and the history of his surname. Adams failure to find his passion for education can be attributed to his lack of motivation, his nonexistent personal achievement, and his feelings of social superiority.
Adams argues that, "the school created a type but not a will" (Adams 32). What Adams failed to realize during his years of education was that the student must find his own will. Whether ones will is to be the valedictorian or not is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that a college cannot provide a student with both an education and a will but it is important to ones maturing that they find and harness their own will. "Leaders of men it never tried to make" (Adams 32) explained Adams. This statement is once again placing

the burden of poor personal traits on the shoulders of the College. Schools, especially Harvard, provide excellent foundations for education for young men and women all over the country. Henry Adams, unfortunately, is a weak, rich, Bostonian who failed to pick up any leadership qualities in school and feels it is necessary to blame the school and not himself.
Besides Adam's weak character it is his upper class status that deludes his philosophies of education. Adams never earned anything on his own. His acceptance to Harvard and his nomination to Class Orator were not based on his hard work or motivation. Henry Adams is poorly motivated because he never got to see for himself what one can achieve through hard work. Henry Adams is just another example of a social tragedy. Because he was surrounded by others in the same league as him he was never able to grow as a person.

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"Any other education would have required a serious effort, but no one took Harvard College seriously. All went there because their friends went there, and the College was their ideal of social self-respect" (Adams 32).
Having been born into an upper-middle class family myself, I am thankful that my parents raised me in such a way where I would not be just another social tragedy. My parents refused to pay for my car, gas, and education so that I could gain the full experience that life has to offer. Working late hours as a waiter and on the back of a garbage truck has made me a stronger person and I see the value of hard work. Unlike Henry Adams, the education that I am receiving at FAU will be more than just a "regular step". This will be an experience that I have earned and therefore care much more about than he did. At FAU, I will encounter those who come from more and less fortunate
families from around the world; not solely upper class students who have their futures already outlined for them.
Being from New England myself, it should be easier to see where Adams is coming from when he discusses his views on education. The times have changed since then and New Englanders do not see themselves as better than Southerners as much as they may have then. Perhaps this can be attributed to the long period of time which has elapsed since the Civil War, the unification of America during WWII, or the advancements in technology which has leveled the playing field. Due to his belief that New Englanders were, "fully five years more mature than the English or European boys" (Adams 32) he found it to be unnecessary for him to continue his education in college. "Henry Adams never professed the smallest faith in universities of any kind, either as boy or man, nor had he the faintest admiration for the university graduate" (Adams 59). This quote reveals to the reader that Adams feels that he is above the need to further his education.
Henry Adams is a reluctant learner who takes everything for granted. His days of Harvard College were plagued by his negative mindset and poor personal traits that led him to poor performance in school and left him with bitterness towards education in general. The Adams family name, although a blessing, led to his demise in every area of education and in life.


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