Concord, Mass. — The following is an ehcerpt from ''The Public Responsibility of Private Education,'' a speech by Thomas E. Wilcox, headmaster of Concord Academy, delivered on Oct. 2, 1981.
Horace Mann, speaking in the land of Emerson and Thoreau, made two points about the public responsibility of education.
He said that beyond all other devices of human origin, education is the great equalizer of the conditions of men; the balance wheel of the social machinery.
He said that it not only so elevates the moral nature that it can make men disdain and abhor the oppression of their fellow men, but it also gives to each man the independence and the means by which he can resist the selfishness of other men.
It does better than to disarm the poor of their hostility towards the rich; it prevents their being poor.
What, then, is the responsibility of a private educational organization today as opposed to the public schools, those providing the universal education that Horace Mann so strongly advocated?
I believe that it is to form a link between the public and private sectors through the nonprofit or independent sector that we are an important part of.
I believe that we can carry out the mission of the hope of the 1960s within the context of a society that is looking to the private sector to answer its problems.
Intellectuals and professional educators are, indeed, caught in a quandary between the idealism of the 1960s and the economic realities of the 1980s.
I believe that nonprofit organizations in general, and independent schools in particular, are in a unique position to do something about ongoing societal ills while at the same time remaining accountable to our trustees, living within our resources, and exercising the restraint that makes us part of the private sector.
We must not only prepare students for life within a changing economic system, but we must be prepared to assume our role within it.
Our educational role is clear. The need for trained, intelligent minds was never greater.
A technologically oriented society is totally dependent upon the ability of the next generation to maintain and improve upon it.
Our still-stratified society needs people with a world view, people who are liberally educated, and capable of keeping a broad perspective.