Story type: Essay
The very old and very foolish saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” is disproved every day. Whenever you hear a man talk about “a little knowledge” ask him what he thinks about the danger of a great deal of IGNORANCE. Tell him this:
“THE SCHOOLING OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, ALL TOLD DID NOT AMOUNT TO AS MUCH AS ONE YEAR.”
The teaching was elementary, including reading, writing, ciphering, and very little of each one. It was picked up at odd times, when he could be spared from daily labor. Remember that when he was a lad his father used to hire him out to work on other men’s farms for very little money.
With that little learning he built himself up into one of the greatest men in history, saved the nation, ended once and for all civilized recognition of slavery.
A little learning might possibly have been dangerous had he been one of the idiotic kind of men. It might have made him feel dissatisfied with the hard labor for which he was fit, without stimulating him to better things.
But Lincoln’s little learning gave him no rest–it kept him constantly adding more learning to his little supply. —-
The self-pitying young man who thinks he has no chance may be interested in Lincoln’s methods of getting ahead. He walked about twenty miles through the wilderness to borrow an English grammar. He could get no other books, so he read and re-read the statutes of Indiana. He wanted to teach himself to write well and think closely. He had never heard Bacon’s saying: “Writing maketh an exact man,” but he felt the truth of the fact for himself, and he was bound to write. He had no paper and could not afford to buy any.
At night, when his work was done, he would bend his huge six-foot-four frame close down by the firelight to write and cipher ON THE BACK OF A WOODEN SHOVEL.
When the back of the shovel was covered with writing he would shave a thin layer from it and begin writing once more. —-
It is a very useful thing for men occasionally to feel ashamed of themselves. If you want to feel ashamed of yourself, if you are complaining and whining, just picture to yourself Abraham Lincoln in his father’s little hut, with no windows and no flooring, crouching by the fire and developing his mind by laborious writing on the back of a wooden shovel.
Children of twelve in schools, precocious little girls even of seven or eight, know much more than Abraham Lincoln knew when he was twenty-one years old.
With his “little knowledge” he grew and did the work that was to improve the condition of millions of men.
Don’t be ashamed of your “little knowledge.”
But do be ashamed if you do not add to it whenever you can, and especially if you fail to make it useful to your fellow-men.