Abraham Lincoln

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Identify the values that Lincoln expects the teacher to teach his son in the letter to his son's headmaster.

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Lincoln instructs his son's headmaster to teach his son how to be a good and honorable person. Lincoln's instructions show that he values both academic achievement and the development of a sense of integrity.

Lincoln asks the headmaster to show his son that while some men are scoundrels, many are worthy of respect and that for every enemy, there is a friend. He also wants his son to learn the value of money, hard work, and losing gracefully. Lincoln wants his son to avoid envy. He also wants his son to appreciate both learning from a book and enjoying the grace and beauty of nature.

He wants his son to follow his individual conscience and to learn to follow what he thinks is right, even if it is unpopular. He should also learn that it is more honorable to fail than to achieve success through cheating. Lincoln wants his son to feel comfortable expressing sadness and yet to learn to laugh when he is sad. Lincoln asks the headmaster to be kind to his son but not to coddle him and to teach his son patience. In the end, Lincoln wants his son to learn to be his own man. Though he knows this is a difficult set of instructions, Lincoln feels his son is up to the challenge.  

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Lincoln's primary concern is that the teacher is able to instruct his child on the idea that academic scholarship must accompany the primary instruction of character.  For Lincoln, education becomes "an adventure that might take him across continents."  However, this primary residence of such a voyage is within his son's character and the values of "faith, love, and courage" that accompany all notions of education.  Lincoln asks the teacher to "take him by his hand and teach him" the basic elements of character molding. This encompasses lessons that reaffirm the basic values of "faith, love, and courage" These values manifest themselves in Lincoln's requests that the teacher teach the child that "for every scoundrel, there is a hero" and that "10 cents earns is of far more value than a dollar found."  The values that Lincoln would want his child to gain are residing in the realm of character formation.  These values are ones that transcend content learning and help to form the basis of one's identity.  Lincoln understands this clearly as he ends his letter with the idea that his son is a "nice little boy."  In this, the values that Lincoln wishes the teacher to teach reflects the reality that education is as much character based as it is about the content acquired.

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