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Carrie C.

Lane presented The Culture Demanded by American Citizens, her thesis statement, at
the Iowa State College’s Eighth Annual Commencement Ceremony held at the College chapel on
Wednesday, November 10, 1880. Lane was the last to present; out of eighteen people, she was
the only woman.

The Culture Demanded by American Citizens—Carrie C. Lane

Typed by Lindsay Hoffman

Footnotes by Brandi Ostrander

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We boast of our modern originality, of our modern civilization, of our modern culture, yet
around us on every side there clings the musty remnants of the institutions of forgotten ages.
Governments have been founded upon principles established by men long since forgotten.
Modern Religions have arisen from creeds upheld centuries ago. Educational institutions have
been bequeathed to us from the traditional system of the past.

Aristotle1 and Socrates2 have well deserved the homage of their renown, but through the
maze of mystery surrounding their lives, their greatness has been magnified. But the United
States, while boasting of her independence, has accepted their principles as those of eternal
Truth, and has established her system of mental culture upon the ideas first proclaimed by them.
Theirs was a system of Education shaped and [moulded]3 by the times in which it was originated.
Were there no other cause, the simple fact that the nineteenth century is [imilating]4 the ancient
forms of Greece and Rome, would be enough to condemn it.

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There on every side were to seen the distinction between the educated and the ignorant.
We learned were the wealthy and powerful. The mass of the people had little use for their minds,
they had little cause to think. Stout limbs, stalwart frames, robust health were what the times
demanded and what the times admired. A man was valued by the force of his blows, by his
swiftness of foot, by his capacity for hardship. Now, these qualities will give no position in the
social scale, and secure for him but a few of the prizes of life. When the glory of youth, indeed,
lay in strength, today it lies in their mental power. When, the race of life was a conflict between

1
Greek philosopher and scientist known for his studies of physics, ethics, politics, poetics, natural history and
science. Lived from 384-322 BC. http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9355778
2
Greek philosopher who influenced the thought of the past and is still prevalent today. Known for his pedagogical
technique named the “Socratic Method.” http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9379012
3
Unknown word, probably meant to be “molded”
4
Unknown word, probably meant to be imitating or immolating
muscle and muscle, today, it lies mind and mind. Ideas of government, religion and society have
been completely metamorphosed, yet the youth of our land are drilled in ancient forms and
mythologies. There has been a revelation of man’s powers and abilities and nobler expectations
of his achievements, yet the lives of the ancient philosophers are to be studied to gain the data for
their own advancement. A strange proceeding for all en-

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lightened people! A pe-culiar commentary upon their intelligence!

Some one has said that there are but three ways of existing “by working, by begging, and
by stealing.” In no nation is this truer than in our own. Each American youth comes out into the
world with the idea that he can exist only by the “sweat of his brow.” He is animated by a love
of freedom, a sense of independence, a jealous dread of restraint. He possesses the enterprise
and zeal, the courage and ambition to fathom every mystery and to unlock every secret. But
what kind of drill have our schools given them for the accomplishment of their task? Realm
after realm of new truths have been discovered and yet those truths have been withheld from him
who is to make farther progress in unveiling nature’s mysteries and in their place has been
substituted the memorizing of Greek and Latin verbs. Has he received a broad and liberal
education, his acquaintance with the ancient languages and literature and pure mathematics is
complete and as Horace

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Mann5 once said: “he is pronounced a Master of Arts, but what arts is he master of. He may be
starving and not know how to satisfy his hunger. Nature is a sealed book to him and yet the earth
is fruitful, the woods and fields are full of life. He alone has place at the table where all are
fed.” Has he received but a common education we have given him only an acquaintance, as our
father’s used to say, with the three R’s forgetting the truth pronounced by Miss Nightingale6, that
they were usually accompanied by a fourth R-[rascaldom]7. In either case no industry has been
taught him, no preparation for the actual realities of life. It may be [unpoetical]8, but the first,
last and only problem of any importance, which presents itself to the average American is by
what means shall he earn his bread and butter. Yet with the general acquirements of the average
American, he “drifts through his existence like a leaf blown before the wind.” To be sure there

5
United States educator and congressmen (1796-1859). Known as the founding president of Antioch College.
http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9371191
6
Known as Florence Nightingale (1820-1910). Famous for establishing nursing as a trained profession.
http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9373492
7
Unknown word
8
Unknown word
are [exciplious]9, a Greeley10, a Lincoln11 or an Edison12 would make his way through all
impediments into the occupa-

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tion which belongs to him. But we have to educate “the millions, not the units; the average, not
the exceptions.” We have to educate them to answer that great problem, and the question
naturally arises, by what means can it be accomplished? Each flash of the electric light, each
passing engine, each telegram, each trade and profession sends back with indisputable force, the
reply-Science. She has been the mainspring of every improvement. Here has been the hand
which has plucked the fruit from the tree of knowledge. To her we are indebted for our
civilization. To her our toiling millions indebted for their daily bread. Yet the youth of our land
are scarcely familiar with her name. Not all occupation of life but needs her assistance, not a
single industry but has been perfected through her aid, and only from Science can come future
progress. The church, the law, army, navy, literature and trade alike need her aid. Where we
have laid aside our foolish prejudices and our ancient standard and have united ourselves to
make a unanimous effort to introduce

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her into every rank, then shall we see the higher condition of personal excellence and usefulness,
which will be the inevitable result. Would we lessen the number of our criminals and beggars,
we must establish industrial schools for our lower classes. But the opposers of Science admit all
this. It is only when it is talked of introducing her into our high-schools and universities that
they object. They still insist upon mathematical and classical discipline to fit men for the labors
of everyday life. And by what kind of logic have we upheld this culture of the middle ages? Say
the adherents of the [traditiouary]13 system “Knowledge is to be acquired, not on account of its
capability of useful application, but for its own intrinsic interest; that the purpose of a liberal
education is not to prepare for a vocation or profession but to train the intellectual faculties; that
mental discipline is the true object of higher culture and that for its attainments the study of the
Mathematics and the Classics is superior to all other means. But so untrue is both premise and

9
Unknown word
10
Known as Horace Greeley (1811-1872). A United States political leader and newspaper editor.
http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9366089
11
Served as the 16th president of the U.S. (1861–65). Known for the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Emancipation
Proclamation, and the Gettysburg address. He was assassinated in office. http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-
9370274
12
Known as Thomas Edison (1847-1931). A United States inventor famous for the incandescent light bulb and the
phonograph. http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9363424
13
Unknown word
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conclusion that it has called forth expostulations from or best educators. In an earnest appeal to
England, Herbert Spencer14 says: “Not only in times past, but almost as much in our own era,
that knowledge which conduces to personal well-being has been postponed to that which brings
applause. In the Greek schools, music, poetry rhetoric and philosophy which had but little
bearing upon action, were the dominant subjects while knowledge aiding the arts of life had a
very subordinate place. And in our own universities and schools, the like antithesis holds. The
real motive for giving classical educations is simply conformity to public opinion. Men dress
their children’s minds as they do their bodies, in the prevailing fashion.”

Mr. Carlyle15 too writes. For many years it has been one of my constant regrets that no
school master of mine had a knowledge of [natural]16 History, so far at least as to have taught me
the grasses which grow by the wayside and the little winged and wingless neighbors that are
continually meeting

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me with a salutation which I cannot answer as things are: Why didn’t somebody teach me the
constellations too and make me at home in the starry heavens which are always overhead and
which I don’t half know to this day? I love to prophecy that there will come a time when in all
the European towns and villages, the schoolmaster will be strictly required to possess these
capabilities and that no ingenious little demizer of this universe be thenceforward debarred from
his right of liberty in these two departments and doomed to look on them as of [acrosogated]17
fences all his life “And this is the testimony of great men who have suffered the effects of
learning the meaning of words instead of learning the meaning of things.

The advocates of this system argue that there are two great faculties of the mind to be
cultivated, the reason and the memory. Mathematics exercise the former, the Classics the latter.
Says Sir [Wm] Hamilton18 “If we consult reason, experience and the

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14
English philosopher and sociologist known for advocating the theory of social Darwinism (1820-1903).
http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9379281
15
Known as Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881). A Scottish historian and essayist. http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-
9359841
16
Unknown word
17
Unknown word, probably meant to be the two words: “across gated”
18
Unknown person, most likely to be Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet (1788-1856). Known to be a Scottish
philosopher and educator. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9039041/Sir-William-Hamilton-9th-Baronet
common testimony of ancient and modern times, none of our intellectual studies tend to cultivate
a smaller number of the faculties, in a more feeble and partial manner than Mathematics. This is
an acknowledged fact, by every writer on Education of the least pretensions to judgment or
experience.”

However there is no one who would deny that as a basis of future investigation and
progress, the study of Mathematics is invaluable. It deals with those universal phenomena which
underlie all knowledge. The great objection raised by our educations is against the educational
predominance which they have usurped on the grounds of the discipline they afford. Says Mr.
[Youmans]19 in an able article. Mathematics are suited to form habits of continuous attention by
dealing with trains of proof, to help the imagination steadily to grasp abstract relations and to
familiarize the mind with a system of necessary truth. But they do not afford a complete exercise
of the

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reasoning powers. They begin with axioms, self evident truths, established principles and
proceed to their conclusions, along a track each step of which is an intuitive certainty. This no
one can dispute. But it so happens that in the experiences of life, which are carried on largely
through a system of logic, we seldom meet with difficulty in arriving at the proper result when
our premises are correct. It is the primary facts, not the complex conclusion, wherein lies the
difficulty. It is the axioms, not the rules over which we stumble. At last the truth stares us in the
face that this important preliminary work can never be reached through mathematical work, and
instead of having furnished a culture and able mind fit to cope with the practical problems of life,
it serves instead as an actual disqualification for all its discipline has lead the student to accept or
reject all premises blindly; Dugald Stewart20 remarks. I have observed a peculiar proneness in
mathematicians to avail themselves of principles sanctioned by some

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imposing name. I have not met with a mere mathematician who was not credulous to a fault,
credulous not only with respect to human testimony, but credulous also in matters of opinion.”
Pascal also observes “It is rare that mathematicians are observant, or that observant minds are
mathematical because mathematicians would treat matters of observation by rule of mathematics
and make themselves ridiculous by attempting ridiculous by attempting to commence by
definition and principles. When the question arises what can be substituted to develop the
reasoning powers to their fullest extent? And the answer comes from our best and greatest
educators-“Science.” Instead of following out a line with premises given, it first proves the truth
19
Unknown person, most likely to be Vincent Youmans (1898-1946). Famous for being a United States songwriter.
http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9383200
20
British philosopher widely known for his Scottish “common sense” way of thinking (1753-1828).
http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9069674/Dugald-Stewart
of the premises. It searches for the primary axiom, it investigates the phenomena presented to
the senses. Instead of the blind belief exercised by mathematics, it cultivates that power of the
mind, to doubt, a power which has characterized every change and every improvement. It
cultivates

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the desire to investigate every cause and fathom every mystery. Even if the advocates of this
system will admit that a scientific, may take the place of a mathematical education, they will still
insist that working can be substituted for the Classics. Says Mr. [Youmans] again, “What the
acquisition of words exercises the memory is of course true; but their assumed merit for
discipline raises the question of how they exercise it. Memory is the capability of recalling past
mental expressions and depends chiefly upon the relations subsisting among these impressions in
the mind. If they are arbitrary, the power of recall depends upon multiplicity of repetition and
involves a maximum outlay of mental force in acquisition. If, however, ideas are arranged in the
mind in a natural order of connection and [dependence]21, this principle becomes the most
important element in commanding past acquisitions. The conditions are then removed, the
outlay of effort in acquisition is then reduced and the power of recall increased. The memory
cultivated in the common acquire-

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ment of language is of this lowest kind. It cannot be best disciplined by a mental procedure
which neglects its highest law. But, if it is urged that it is not the mere memory of words that is
contended for, but the discipline and judgment afforded by the grammatical study of language,
the crushing answer is: that a dead language is unnecessary for this discipline which is far better
secured by systematic study and thorough logical analysis of the vernacular tongue. The usual
school practice of thrusting the young into the grammar, even if their native tongue is well
known to be one of the most efficient means of the artificial production of stupidity; but the habit
of introducing them to a foreign language through this gateway is a still more flagrant outrage.”
The natural method of acquiring speech is the way we all acquire it, the knowledge of words
first, then there combination into sentences to be followed by the practical use of the language;
rules and precepts may then be intelligently applied. But to begin with these, is to put the com-

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plex before the simple, the abstract before the concrete, general before particulars, and in short to
invert the natural order of mental processes. Says Prof. Lathaus22 in a lecture before the Royal
Institute of Great Britain. “The true claim of English Grammar to form part and parcel of an
English education, stands or falls with the value of philological knowledge to which grammatical

21
Unknown word
22
Unknown person
studies may serve as in introduction, and with the value of scientific grammar as a disciplinal
study. I have no fear to assume that wherever grammar is studied as grammar, the language
which the grammar so studies should represent must be the mother tongue of the student
whatever that mother tongue may be. This is the study of a theory; and for this reason it should
be complicated as little as possible by points of practice. For this reason a man’s mother tongue
is the best medium for the element of scientific philology, simply because it is the one which he
knows best in practice.”

It is then proven conclusively that the Classics do not exercise the minds to it’s full-

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And the inferiority of the discipline obtainable through this system is plainly conceivable. And
again the question arises- What can we substitute? And again the answer comes back with
redoubled energy-“Science.” It exercises the memory according to its highest law,
-acknowledged by all metaphysicians - association of ideas. It connects cause with effect and no
truth is recalled without bringing with it a train of useful facts. Instead, too, of words and their
connections which are forgotten n the course of a few years, there are facts which last through a
lifetime and are brought into application on every side. If there is any discipline to be desired in
mere memorizing of unconnected ideas, how much more beneficial would it be to memorize
scientific facts which would be valuable in themselves, aside from the discipline they afford. It
develops the reason to its fullest extent. It improves the memory. It gives a never failing
resource of practical knowledge, a [knout]23 edge which is always available.

Where is still another faculty of the mind, so important that so great a man as Mr.
[Faraday]24 has complained at its neglect, and which

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can only be developed through the aid of science. It is the Judgment. We are apt to venture to
judge of things with more assurance in proportion as our powers of observation are less
cultivated. To form a proper judgment of the phenomena around us, the mind must be filled full
of the facts concerning them and the principles upon which they depend.

If we look down the roll of American occupations, from the greatest profession down to the
meanest toil, there comes a demand for science. Our lowest classes need industrial drill, our
middle classes need the help of her useful facts and our educated need her discipline. While
many an able writer has taken [p]25 his pen effectively for the cause of science, he owed his

23
Unknown word
24
Most likely the English physicist and chemist Michael Faraday (1791-1867).
http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9364211
25
Unknown reason for why this letter is written
success solely to his power of expression, which he has in every case acquired through the study
of the Classics.

Language is indeed the marvelous instrument of human thought and its study employs our
keenest perceptions and strongest powers. Literature is too a part of the world’s history and in
many respects, the most important part. The rise and fall of dynasties and the changes

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in forms of government, are chiefly important on account of the light they throw on the progress
of political science and the hope they give of the advance of mankind towards justice and
equality. But the real life of a nation is preserved in it’s literature and the letters, plays and songs
of any ear, has a better knowledge of the character and conditions of the people than all the
formal historians can give him. Yet all these interior processes and furnishings must yield in
point of utility to the sciences that put us into intelligent relations with the world we inhabit. We
take great pains to make classical students appreciate the simple majesty of Horace the elegance
of Virgil26, the sublimity of the literature of Greece and Rome. But our own literature contains
more of pathos and wit, more of oratory and more of noble history than all the classical
languages combined. Whoever feels the greatness of Patrick Henry27 and Webster can the more
fully appreciate the pages of Virgil and Dante28, and whoever reads the marvelous thoughts of the
great Shakespeare29 can perceive whatever there is immortal in the Iliad30 and Odyssey31. They
urge farther than it is the close study of the Classics

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that gives the finished forms of expression and that it will not be given to the literature of our
own language. But let us remember that the immortal Shakespeare was uneducated and that
many a writer whose name will live as long as the English language has acknowledged that he
had attained his beauty of style by the study of the best models of the English writing.

26
Said to be “the greatest of Roman poets” (70-19 BC). http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9382055
27
Skilled orator and America Revolutionary leader known for the quote “Give me liberty or give me death.”
http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9366924
28
Most likely to be Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), an “Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher,
and political thinker.” http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9109641/Dante

29
Known as William Shakespeare (1564-1616), a “British poet and playwright, often considered the greatest writer
in world literature.” http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9378380

30
Ancient Greek poem about the Trojan War written by Homer. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9001427/Iliad
31
Ancient Greek power about the hero Odysseus during the Trojan War, written by Homer.
http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9373899
There is still another objection urged by the idolizers of the past. They will say that there is
a great conflict between Science and Religion and that its introduction will surely tend to
infidelity. Never was there a charge more infamous! Instead of the blind belief in a being who
holds in his hand unknown powers, there is proven to us in the delicate viewing of each leaf, in
the rounded pebble and in each mysterious plan, the evidence of a great Overseer. Science
teaches so positively the relation between cause and effect, that instructively the mind believes in
a mighty first, great cause. Not until one fully realizes the inevitable laws which govern each
event in natures plans, not until he has beheld her numerous phenomena and

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understood their causes can he conceive the magnitude of the mind where in this mighty plan
was formed.

At last the conclusion is indisputable- Science is the culture we demand. This is an age of
utility and in no nation is there so much responsibility placed upon its citizens as in our own.
There is no place for superfluous education. Every power every energy, every ambition should
be expended for use. It is the race of life and he who can cope with the world through the aid of
science alone reaches the goal. There has been indeed much accomplished by classically
educated men, but years were lost in these studies, which had they spent in the fields of science
would have given to their possessors names of never dying fame. We are a money making
people, a bread earning nation and neither Virgil nor Horace can aid us-it is the truth of science
we need. Already millions have been lost to us through her neglect. It is financially our interest
to cultivate her, who armed with necessary knowledge, standing on the rock of nature, fears not
to press forward into the future. The banker in his counting room, the merchant at

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his counter, the farmer at his plow and the housewife in her kitchen, to the successful, must
solicit her assistance. All this jars upon the refinement of the classically educated men. He
triumphantly contracts the refined and delicate instincts which result from classical study is with
the vulgar motives which characterize money making. But the two are not inseparable. If there
results culture from the development of a few faculties gained through the study of the
masterpiece of men who flourished in the barbarous ages, how much greater the cultures which
can be gleamed by the development of all the faculties given by God? If there comes culture and
refinement from pursuing an ode of Horace to some mythological god, how much higher and
grander the sentiment of nature’s does to a perfect all wise creator. If there is interest in looking
back over the centuries to Grecian conquests32 or Caesar’s33 wars which sublimity is there in
32
Likely to be referring to the Hellenistic Age; the period of time between Alexander the Great’s death and Rome’s
conquest of Egypt (323-30 BC). http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9366870
33
Either speaking of Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor (63 BC-14 AD) or Julius Caesar, the “Roman
general, statesman, and dictator (100-44 BC). It is more likely she is speaking of Julius Caesar, since his life is more
looking back over the ages and to read their history written by the hand of time! No! America
has no place for citizens who live in the past. There are hosts of important questions which are

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presented to every American citizen which he intellects of our republic. No amount of Classics
can help him to form his opinions on the great questions of Freedom of Trade, State Right’s,
[Bimelalism]34 or the relative position of military and civil power. Yet these are the questions he
is called upon to answer in the hour of every American citizen depends upon the proper
adjustment and consideration of these problems. Science alone can give that breadth of view,
that patient and calm treatment which the imminent questions of the times so decisively demands

along the lines of the Hellenistic Age. http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9356136,


http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9359460
34
Unknown word, possibly meant to be Bimetallism, meaning the 19th century monetary system of a nation’s fixed
quantities of gold and silver, which established an understandable exchange rate between the two metals.
http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9079217/bimetallism