Library of Horatio Alger

Online education is fully accepted by just about everyone now, but it wasn’t always regarded as an acceptable alternative to face to face classroom instruction. An attempted account of higher education as a supposedly traditional bricks-and-mortar learning had been the victim of an amnesia about the real story of American education.

This was one reason for starting the series on Horatio Alger, reflecting as the books do on the early involvement of the Policy Studies Organization with the American Public University System, which pioneered in enabling American service personnel at overseas bases to continue their education and expanded its outreach to what is now  a vastly varied constituency.  We wanted to show that education other than the bucolic campus centered variety was hardly an innovation. The Horatio Alger heroes often got their educational start with night school and other decidedly non ivy programs.

Indeed, universities like Northeastern and Springfield began as YMCA programs, with no football teams or carillons. Of course, practically every university and especially since the necessities created by the virus, online learning is wholeheartedly established with the Establishment. Academic survival during the onslaught of the virus soon depended on online learning. Horatio Alger’s books have been a fixture in American culture since their first appearance.  The enthusiasts include among a number of groups, two noteworthy organizations.  One is the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, which honors outstanding leadership  in American society and awards millions of dollars every year to promising students. It is one of the largest providers of scholarships in the world. The other is the Horatio Alger Society which includes collectors, libraries, and those interested particularly in the books themselves as well as juvenile fiction in general. Membership is indispensable for those who want to understand the extraordinary publishing phenomenon of the titles. Then of course there are many others interested in the controversial author of the series, because among other things he was a Unitarian minister. His life and legacy have provided fodder for many sermons.

Whatever the reasons for the survival of these books and in the biography of their author, they are certainly proof that American education has produced outstanding achievers without the benefit of colonnaded buildings, hockey rinks, and marching bands. Nothing is wrong with all of that, but Horatio Alger’s heroes remind us that availability is key. Harried mothers with several children to mind, soldiers in far places, the physically challenged and the elderly deserve a chance. That this is important is a reason why these books have survived.

Andy Gordon

by Horatio Alger, introduction by Dr. Wallace Boston Purchase The young Horatio Alger heroes often sold newspapers or delivered telegrams, a reminder of how…

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Dan, The Newsboy

by Horatio Alger, introduction by Dr. Wallace Boston Purchase The young Horatio Alger heroes often sold newspapers or delivered telegrams, a reminder of how…

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Paddle Your Own Canoe

Purchase through Amazon   Edited and Introduced by Wallace Boston The protagonists in Horatio Alger stories are often, if one may play on a metaphor,…

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