Education and Schools

My father taught in the wise way which unfolds what lies in the child’s nature, as a flower blooms, rather than crammed it, like a Strasbourg goose, with more than it could digest.
~ Louisa May Alcott

Most often remembered as the “Father of Little Women,” Amos Bronson Alcott is usually forgotten as a leader in educational reform. He was not only a teacher and Superintendent of Concord Schools, but also a founder of one of the first adult education centers in the United States, The Concord Summer School of Philosophy. The idea of having a place where adults could come together to learn had been Alcott’s life-long dream; the first summer session was held in 1879 within Orchard House itself. By 1880, Bronson had constructed the building he called "Hillside Chapel" to house future sessions of his School. For the following eight summers, adults from around the country came to participate in Alcott’s vision and to interact with some of the greatest thinkers and educational pioneers of the 19th century.

Photo of Bronson on the steps of the School of Philosophy.

Observation more than books, and experience more than persons, are the prime educators.

~Amos Bronson Alcott

“Life is my college. May I graduate well, and earn some honors!”

~Louisa May Alcott

“Mr. Alcott sat behind his table, and the children were placed in chairs, in a large arc around him; the chairs so far apart, that they could not easily touch each other. He then asked each one separately, what idea he or she had of the purpose of coming to school? To learn; was the first answer. To learn what? By pursuing this question, all the common exercises of school were brought up by the children themselves; and various subjects of art, science, and philosophy. Still Mr. Alcott intimated that this was not all; and at last some one said “to behave well,” and in pursuing this expression into its meanings, they at last decided that they came to learn to feel rightly, to think rightly, and to act rightly.

~Elizabeth Peabody, Record of a School (1835)

The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.

~Amos Bronson Alcott

For more on Education at Orchard House today, click here.


More Wit and Wisdom from the Alcotts

January The New Year
February Valentine's Day
Black History Month
March Women's History Month
April The Promise of Spring
May / June Wedding Blessings, Wedded Bliss
July / August Nature and Gardens
September Education and Schools
October The Wisdom of Little Women
November Birthdays
December Christmas

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Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association