Why is the Education of Henry Adams a Classic Text?.
Why is The Education considered a classic? First, one must answer this question: "What is a classical text?" Brook Thomas gives his definition of what a classic should entail. It should be a text that represents a generation, and it should present something endearing to its readers. In The Education's case the generation represented is the "mugwump" generation, who are the people caught between two changing times: the 18th century republicans and the 20th century progressive evolutionists. The question posed is whether or not the classical tradition had a place in the early 20th century. This question has, according to Thomas, yet to be answered, so that is why the Education has had such an impact on its readers. Thomas also says that Henry Adams writes in the style of St. Augustine and Rousseau. Comparing his effort to St. Augustine's and Rousseau's Adams said, "I feel certain that their faults, as literary artists, are worse than mine. We have all three undertaken to do what cannot be successfully done- mix narrative and didactic purpose and style We all enjoy the failure." "Critics have so enjoyed Adams" failure that, like the Great Books Foundation, they have turned it into an American classic.".
"Part of the reason that The Education has been granted classical status is that the 20th century has seemed to bear him out, especially his challenge to Eliot's faith in progressive evolution." Adams proposed to his readers that maybe the classical tradition is useless in American education. He does not see where this education fits in with the new rise of technology in the 20th century. Adams realizes that the 18th century classical education has no place in the 20th century, so he is wondering if the classics can be taught in the 20th century. This wondering is what the second half of the education is about: "Is there a place for the classical tradition in the 20th century?" Brook Thomas says this qualifies The Education to be a classic, because Americans are still answering this question (at least to the date of this article).