An aunt writes, describing a nephew having "no eduction." What could this mean?
Updated introduction: In her memoirs, the aunt conveys her impression of another family member. As part of evaluating what her statement meant you will (a) conduct research about the aunt to discover her possible bias and/or motivations, (b) seek other sources of information about the nephew, and (3) put all the information you learn about the aunt and separately about her nephew in a proper historical context.
Some helpful references follow. In particular, see the full article by Marion McCreadie, referenced below, as it explains how "education" was provided prior to the time public schools were available.
1. Who, what, where, why and when?
Kimberly Powell (About.com) does an excellant job of sizing up the challenge in her article, "Analyzing a Historical Document: What Does the Record Really Tell Us." In particular, see the discussion of her third consideration, "Who was the author or creator of the document," in which she concludes, "No source is entirely immune to the influence of its creator's predilections, and knowledge of the author/creator helps in determining the document's reliability." The example questions Powell presents in the extended discussion are directly on target:
- What was the author's purpose ...
- What was the author's knowledge ...
- [Was the author really a] neutral party ... or
- [D]id [they] have opinions or interests that might have influenced ....
2. Historical Context
Separate from the who, what, why and when, is the research advanced to place what you learn in historical context.
According an article, "History of Australian Education," by Aussie Educator, "Public School systems [developed first as] primary level schools, then expanding into the secondary area beginning in the 1880s. Universities first arose in the middle of the 19th century, with early childhood education in the form of kindergartens and preschools lagging well behind all other sectors."
The article by Marion McCreadie, Internet Family History Association of Australia (IFHAA), "The Evolution of Education in Australia" seems particularly on point. A very few extracts from the article follow
[I]n the 1800s ... [e]ducation was only available to the wealthier
middle and upper classes, who could afford to pay tuition.
By the 1830s ... education ... was seen as a means of forging the
penal colony of Australia into an organised and orderly society. ...
imperative that the government set up schools so that all children
could be taught, not only the three "R's," (reading, writing and
arithmetic) but how to be good moral, law-abiding citizens. Opponents
... felt that the child of a blacksmith didn't need any more education
than what was necessary for him to become a blacksmith ..."
Compulsory education was introduced in the 1870s and was difficult to