South Africans may be proud that we have adopted a system of public schooling that transcends the ideals of the good people of Massachusetts in the early nineteenth century, providing the benefits of schooling not only to girls in equal measure as to boys, but of broadening the provision of what has become a key element of any complex society to children of all races and creeds.
But the questions asked so poignantly above by Horace Mann, first Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, haunt South African schooling today. We remain committed to giving every child a ‘free, straight solid path-way’ into adult life, and to nurturing the ‘faculties, powers, divine endowments’ with which every child is blessed. And we continue to seek ways of preventing these precious qualities ‘from being perverted to individual and social calamity’, although it is all too evident that such calamities afflict large parts of the school system in South Africa today.
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