It seems to be that evety good person’s goal is to contribute something positive to society, and that evety town hopes to claim that famous achiever as its own. The most important person from Youngstown, however, has been denied his due fame. I’m referring to our great educator William Holmes McGuffey. He was the author of the most significant text book series used from 1836 unrll1920, The McGuffey Readers. As a matter of fact, the only book that was more popular than these text books was the Holy Bible.
I went to the 1ibraty last week and checked out one of the copies of one of The McGuffey Readers. It was, and still is, a great book. The first thing that Mr. McGuffey addresses on the beginning pages of his books is character. He seemed to have realized that it is the foundation of all learning. The virtues, morals, and manners that he focused on back then are missing from, but are much needed in, our public education system today.
On a small farm in Coitsville about 200 years ago, this great person’s mind developed. William Holmes McGuffey was influenced and inspired by three aspects of his childhood: education, religion, and nature. Daily he gathered his education from Mr. Wick’s School, which was about five miles west of his home; and weekly he received the teachings of the Presbyterian Church in New Bedford, P A, about five miles east of it. But the blossoming of this significant mind happened in the fields and the woods of his family’s farm.
In the solitude of that fann, he employed his intellect and his intuition. On that farm he reflected on what he learned at school along with what he learned from the church. Surrounded by the intricacies of nature, and with a clear mind and a sensitive heart, Mr. McGuffey started to develop his precious contribution to society. I am deeply moved when I think about this because I live near that farm. The spirit of the knowledge contained in The McGuffey Readers shaped the education of most people in our country for close to 100 years, which is why Mr. McGuffey is referred to as “The School Master to the Nation.” That spirit was nurtured and grew on that farm. The flat acres of the McGuffey farm are made up of heavy, wet clay soil and today yield mostly just brush. No towering Redwood trees have ever grown there, but evetyone should know that a much bigger giant is rooted in this local ground.
I admire William Holmes McGuffey as well as those few good, caring people who are struggling with local government officials to respect and preserve the integrity of this vety special historical place. We don’t need the natural gas from beneath it yet. Why can’t we wait? Why the big rush? Someday, if and when we run out of places to drill, we might have to sacrifice this historic land; but, until people are willing to bring in a drilling rig to Mount Vernon, let’s wait. . .let’s wait.
Steven J. Beck
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