The old general rule was that educated people did not perform manual labor. They managed to eat their bread, leaving the toil of producing it to the uneducated. This was not an insupportable evil to the working bees, so long as the class of drones remained very small. But now, especially in these free States, nearly all are educated–quite too nearly all, to leave the labor of the uneducated, in any wise adequate to the support of the whole. It follows from this that henceforth educated people must labor. Otherwise, education itself would become a positive and intolerable evil. No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive.
September 30, 1859 Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society
This one, he DID say. I happened onto it while searching for the quote in my last post, and found it quite interesting, in light of the books I am reading at the moment. It certainly makes me think twice about the dumbing down of our schools, the increasing inefficiency of our school system, and the college degrees that do not actually prepare people for the workplace as well as did the teenage apprenticeships of colonial days.
I wonder if these phenomena are a response to the problem that Lincoln outlined here. Our people were too well-educated, so why not school them to think less, to follow orders, to not aspire to anything very great, to buy what we sell, to be more tractable? In this way, we continue the illusion of being a well-educated nation, but we are putting our worker bees back where we want them.
Of course, that does create some new problems… Worker bees that think they have a superior education (even though practically everyone else has an equivalent one) are not likely to be happy with menial jobs. Anyone following my thought processes on this? I’m just brainstorming, but there are some fascinating possibilities! Where does it take you?