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John Stuart Mill’s Liberal thought on Education and the Dissemination of Education in Enforcing the Right of Liberty

Nguyen Thi Xiem
American Journal of Educational Research. 2018, 6(5), 570-577. DOI: 10.12691/education-6-5-33
Received January 14, 2018; Revised May 10, 2018; Accepted May 14, 2018


John Stuart Mill (180 - 1873) was the most influential English language philosopher of the nineteenth century. He created a great number of works which attracted remarkable public attention in the past and positive reviews even in these days. In this article, the author wants to clarify J. S. Mill’s education and self-education process during his childhood with his views on education.

1. Introduction

In the history of Western thought, education is one of the subjects that philosophers consider and discuss. In Benjamin Dumville's “Philosophy and Education” there is the assertion that “philosophers intervene in education not by accident but by the close connection between philosophy and education” 1. In fact, the achievements that European countries have achieved in education are the values that have been cultivated, and filtered from the ideas flow and tested through practical experience. Thus, it can be said that the philosophical conception of education has contributed to the appearance of European culture as it is today. Among those philosophers, there is J. S. Mill.

John Stuart Mill was the most influential philosopher of the nineteenth century. One of the most influential thinkers in the history of liberalism, he contributed widely to social theory, political theory and political economy. His most important works include “Principles of Political Economy” (1948); “On Nature” (1850 - 1858); “Three Essays on Religion” (1850 - 1858); “On Liberty” (1859); “Representative Government” (1861); “Utilitarianism” (1863); “Auguste Comte and Positivism” (1865); “Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy”, 1865); “The Subjection of Women” (1869). “On Liberty”, “Representative Government” and “Utilitarianism” are selected works in the Great Books of the Western World (Encyclopedia Britanica, 1994). With these works, John Stuart Mill dubbed “the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century” 1. John Stuart Mill’s philosophy of liberty is like a basic of human rights. "On Liberty" is one of John Stuart Mill's most famous works about liberalism. "On Liberty" that addresses an issue of great interest: civil liberty in individual relationship with the community. Later, he wrote “Representative Government” and “Utilitarianism”. On “Representative Government”, John Stuart Mill began to interpret the conditions for the regime to exist and which form of the government was the best. For John Stuart Mill, the point of having a government was that it performed two main functions: it must use the existing qualities and skills of the citizens to best serve their interests, and it must improve the moral, intellectual and active qualities of these citizens. A despotic government may be able to fulfil the first purpose, but will fail in the second. Only a representative government is able to fulfil these two functions. It is a representative government that combines judiciously the two principles of participation and competence which is able to fulfil the two functions of protecting and educating the citizens. Finally, he wrote “Utilitarianism”. John Stuart Mill took many elements of his version of utilitarianism from Jeremy Bentham, the great nineteenth-century legal reformer. Like Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill believed that happiness (or pleasure, which both Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill equated with happiness) was the only thing humans do and should desire for its own sake. Since happiness is the only intrinsic good, and since more happiness is preferable to less, the goal of the ethical life is to maximize happiness. This is what Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill call “the principle of utility” or “the greatest-happiness principle”. Both Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill thus endorse “classical” or “hedonistic” forms of utilitarianism. More recent utilitarians often deny that happiness is the sole intrinsic good, arguing that a variety of values and consequences should be considered in ethical decision making 2. Although John Stuart Mill agreed with Jeremy Bentham about many of the foundational principles of ethics, he also had some major disagreements. In particular, John Stuart Mill tried to develop a more refined form of utilitarianism that would harmonize better with ordinary morality and highlight the importance in the ethical life of intellectual pleasures, self-development, high ideals of character, and conventional moral rules. In short, with these works, John Stuart Mill dubbed “the most celebrated and symbolic thinker of mid – Victorian Englanf was John Stuart Mill” 3.

2. Content

2.1. Childhood and Early Education of John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill was born on 20 May 1806 at Rodney Street in Pentonville, London. He was eldest son of the Scottish philosopher, historian and economist James Mill, and Harriet Burrow. John Stuart was educated by his father, with the advice and assistance of Jeremy Bentham and Francis Place. He was given an extremely rigorous upbringing, and was deliberately shielded from association with children his own age other than his siblings. By his father's education program, J. Mill was almost separated from his other children. So, John Stuart Mill not interested hobby of children. His childhood have not toys, children's books or hobby of young children. He was early education by the erudite knowledge of philosophy and many other disciplines. James Mill decided that he was the one who taught his son, so he refused to send John Stuart Mill to Cambridge University. Although John Stuart Mill did not study any university, the education and intellectual was considered a legend.

In “Autobiography and literary essays”, John Stuart Mill's writing began in Greek and arithmetically at the age of three. At age six, John Stuart Mill compiled “History of Rome”. During this time, his's favorite subject was History. He could learn more about Roman Empire's politics - the first governmental institution of humanity. This was the first point of departure for the idea of the later forms of government and power.

In his eighth year, he commenced learning Latin, in conjunction with a younger sister, to whom he taught it as he went on, and who afterwards repeated the lessons to his father: and from this time, other sisters and brothers being successively added as pupils, a considerable part of his day's work consisted of this preparatory teaching. The more so as John Stuart Mill was held responsible for the lessons of his pupils, in almost as full a sense as for his own.In the same year in which John Stuart Mill began Latin, he made my first commencement in the Greek poet with the the Iliad and Odyssey through and Aristotle’s Rhetoric. After he had made some progress in this, his father put Pope's translation. It was the first English verse John Stuart Mill had cared to read, and it became one of the books in which for many years he most delighted. Soon after this time John Stuart Mill commenced Euclid and somewhat later, algebra, still under his father's tuition.

At age ten, John Stuart Mill began reading the works of Plato and Demosthenes with ease. Besides, John Stuart Mill began to familiarize himself with works by Herodotus, the parable of Aesop, the expedition of Xenephon, the work of Lucian, Diogenes, Laertius, Isocrates. In spare time, John Stuart Mill was avidly read about popular novels of Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe. Not only did John Stuart Mill devote himself to the field of literature and science. Empirical science is the greatest joy of John Stuart Mill.

From about the age of twelve, John Stuart Mill entered into another and more advanced stage in course of instruction; in which the main object was no longer the aids and appliances of thought, but the thoughts themselves. This commenced with Logic, in which he began at once with the Organon, and read it to the Analytics inclusive. Every day, John Stuart Mill and his father in walk. Jame Mill commenced instructing his son in science by a sort of lectures, which Jame Mill delivered to his in them walks. Jame Mill expounded each day a portion of the subject, and John Stuart Mill gave him next day a written account of it, which Jame Mill made his rewrite over and over again until it was clear, precise, and tolerably complete. As a true friend of James Mill, David Ricardo taught John Stuart Mill to be cordial. They had a walk on a walk together in the yard of David Ricardo to discuss economic issues. John Stuart Mill had the opportunity to study classical political economics. Thus, they approach contemporary social-political issues.

When John Stuart Mill was fourteen he left England for more than a year and after his return though his studies went on under his father’s general direction. Jame Mill was no longer his schoolmaster. John Stuart Mill shall therefore pause here and turn back to matters of a more general nature with the part of his life and education included in the preceding reminiscences [ 4; 47].

Although James Mill's education was too strict and one-sided, it can not be denied the educational role of his father in shaping John Stuart Mill's thought. John Stuart Mill wrote “If I have accomplished anything, I owe it, among other fortunate circumstances, to the fact that through the early training bestowed on me by my father, I started, I may fairly say, with an advantage of a quarter of a century over my contemporaries” [ 4; 33]. It is true that James Mill's education is not a result of cramming but a very effective method, which. It is a method directed toward the goal of not only responding but also cognizing, not only receiving but giving, not only memorizing but also exploring.

In May 1823 his professional occupation and status were decided by his father’s obtaining for his an appointment from the East India Company, in the office of the Examiner of Indian Correspondence. This work gave him extensive practical experience on political issues. At that time, The Philosophical Radicals was founded by Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) and James Mill (1773–1836). Individuals within this group included Francis Place (1771–1854), George Grote (1794–1871), Joseph Parkes (1796–1865), John Arthur Roebuck (1802–1879), Charles Buller (1806–1848), Edward John Trelawny (1792–1881), William Molesworth (1810–1855) and John Stuart Mill. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Philosophical Radicals were against Tory and Whig parties. Members advocate legal political reform, popular vote for men, the application of economic theory (especially the economic theory of David Ricardo). Thus, The Philosophical Radicals would like to rebuild social class and political based on liberty principles.

With the help of Jeremy Bentham, the Radicals invented the “Westminster Review” (1824) to against the Whigs' “Edinburg Review” (1802) and the Tory’s “Quarterly Review” (1809). While members of the Whig party and the Radicals are likely to agree on economic issues such as urban expansion and technological development, the Tory party focuses on England’s protecting the traditional social structure of the aristocratic landlords. Although the Whigs and the Radicals allied - and later joined together to form the Liberal Party, the differences between the Whig party and the Radical group created intense political and private debate. Representatives of the Radicals, James Mill and John Stuart Mill assumed that the Whig party is too prone to the interests of the aristocracy to be a legitimate part of democratic reform. Only the Radicals advocate for the middle class and the workers. In addition, while the Radicalists with policies are guided by the principles of benefits - the principles of aggregate happiness as the norm for law and action. In contrast, the Whig Party thinks radicalism is a mind-boggling for psychological and historical innocence. The Whig Party considers the Radical reforms to be extreme, hostile to the Protestant churches and to the religions in general. It can be said that the Radical has influenced the political situation in England at the time. John Stuart Mill is considered to be the successor of the Radicals verbalizing the hopes of James Mill and Jeremy Bentham.

At this time, with the relation of James Mill and his partners, John Stuart Mill was exposed to many cultures, including French culture. In 1820, John Stuart Mill accompanied his father to France to visit Samuel Bentham and stayed there for a year. During this time, he had the opportunity to learn French language and literature. After a year, he was fluent in French, from which he was always interested in the ideological and political movements of France. Then he went to Paris for a few days at the home of famous economist Jean Baptiste Say, a friend of him. Here, John Stuart Mill met Henri Saint Simon. In 1822, John Stuart Mill joined the Utilitarian Society. This is the time he supported and learned about Utilitarian Society initiated by Jeremy Bentham. In addition, he also joined the Society of Student of Mental Philosophy. From those debates, John Stuart Mill and his friends formed the London Debating Society. At that time, the London Debating Society was a miniature picture of the ideological, scholarly activity of the elite in capitalist society. These groups have been very helpful in deepening the thought and maintaining the friendly relationship of John Stuart Mill. In the course of the debate, John Stuart Mill emphasized his views on freedom such as freedom of speech, freedom of association. John Stuart Mill's dynamic youth was a practical basis to explain why he always promotes the freedom of speech in the fundamental freedoms of human.

At twenty, John Stuart Mill fell into crisis and mentally collapsed. To deal with this crisis, John Stuart Mill began to explore romanticism and some other ideological movements in Europe. These movements deny the concept of secular human nature. He deepened these issues by reading works by thinkers such as Thomas Carlyle, A. Comte, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Ruskin, Herbert Spencer, Frederick Maurice and John Sterling. The return to literature has made John Stuart Mill's spirit more introspective. The lines of Coleridge's poetry, Carlyle, resonate with his heart. Later, John Stuart Mill wrote that “At first I that the cloud would pass away of itself: but it did not. A night’s sleep, the sovereign remedy for the smaller vexations of life, had no effect on it.” [ 4; 140].

John Stuart Mill carried it with his into all companies, into all occupations. John Stuart Mill recalled “hardly anything had power to cause me even a few minutes oblivion of it. cloud seemed to grow thicker and thicker. The lines in Coleridge’s poem “Dejection” exactly describe my case:

A grief without a pang, void, dark and drear

A drowsy, stifled, unimpassioned grief

Which finds no natural outlet or relief

In word, or sigh, or tear.

In vain I sought relief from my favorite books, those memorials of past nobleness and greatness from which I had always hitherto drawn strength and animation. I read them now without feeling, or with the accustomed feeling minus all its charm” [ 4; 140].

John Stuart Mill improved the philosophical views of the Radical by engaging in other schools of thought. He released a new magazine, “London Review” in collaboration with Charles Molesworth. C. Molesworth quickly bought the London Review in 1834 and the London and Westminster Review became the sole voice of the Radical. After Jemery Bentham transferred the “Westminster Review” and especially after his father's death - James Mill, John Stuart Mill had more ideas. He used this new freedom to create another radical philosophy adding the ideas of Coleridge, Thomas Carlyle. John Stuart Mill asserts: there is a new radical philosophy, better and more complete than Bentham's philosophy while it still embraces and values all of Bentham's ideas.

The plan was clearly described in the famous essays of John Stuart Mill in 1838s and 1840s when he wrote about Coleridge and Jeremy Bentham which was published in the London and Westminster Review. John Stuart Mill claimed that Coleridge and Jeremy Bentham were the two liberal thinkers of Britain in their days. In the writings of John Stuart Mill, he highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of Coleridge and Jeremy Bentham’s thoughts. In addition, John Stuart Mill supposed that a more philosophical stance can be followed later. John Stuart Mill had been planning to do this throughout his career.

John Stuart Mill was a major figure in the nineteenth century of the West. The reason why he was noticed in terms of his personal and social interest is that, in his personal capacity, he is a courteous man with a loving heart, an intellectual and talented gentleman. His exemplary life - the highest model of Victorian solemnity - is still admired. In 1830, John Stuart Mill became acquainted with Harriet Taylor, a married woman. Their friendship was intimate and pure during the years before Harriet's husband passed away. In 1851, John Stuart Mill married Harriet Taylor. The couple's long-lasting affection created many stories in English literature. Harriet Taylor had considerable influence on the thought and career of John Stuart Mill.

In 1858, Harriet Taylor passed away in Avignon (France). Her death, to John Stuart Mill, was a huge loss. Not only being an intellectual and talented gentleman but John Stuart Mill is also a person with a sensitive heart. His affection for his wife was so deep as he said “I wish I could speak to the world half the great ideas and noble sentiments buried under her grave... things that are not suggested or helped by her, is what is not the absolute wisdom” [ 5; 18]. Since then, John Stuart Mill lived in Avignon the rest of his life continuing to study and produce many immortal works.

John Stuart Mill is always credited with being an encyclopedia. It seems that in any field, from mathematics, logic, sociology to philosophy, economics - politics, ethics, he also left a mark of individual thought. However, it should be recognized that his intellectual level was the result of his father's special education and his self-education. It can be seen, the life and career of John Stuart Mill is a process of continuous learning from the age of three until his death. Even when he faced spiritual crises, he never abandoned his passion for research. He always finds new sources of comfort within the treasures of human knowledge and the desire to build a progressive society. With continuous effort and hard work, he created a philosophical influence inside and outside the country that few other top ideas could overcome and deserve to become the saint of rationalism, “the leading spokesman for liberalism in the nineteenth century”.

2.2. The Precepts Forming the Opinion of Education in John Stuart Mill’s Philosophy

In his day, John Stuart Mill was exposed to many famous ideas. John Stuart Mill has inherited the quintessence of his predecessors and philosophers of the time. It was the education thought of Wilhelm von Humboldt. Wilhelm von Humboldt (whose full name is Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand Freiherr von Humboldt) is a philosopher, educator and founder of Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.

With a keen political vision, Wilhelm von Humboldt embraced the French Revolution in 1789 with great sympathy, because this revolution eradicated slavery and opened up a new era - the era of Liberty - Equality - Charity. Shortly thereafter, Wilhelm von Humboldt began to hesitate when the Revolution put on the guillotine which killed King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette . In 1792, Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote “The Limits of State Action which depicts his attitude to the French Revolution and outlines the role of education to ensure the exercising of human right of freedom 8.

If John Stuart Mill emphasizes the individuals’ freedoms, Wilhelm von Humboldt is particularly focused on the vibrancy, vitality and creativity of each individual. These factors motivate people to ceaselessly develop with their inner part, their own personality. As a representative of Individualism, Wilhelm von Humboldt argues that a human, when not constrained by force, develops and frees himself. If there is self-development, self-initiative, self-determination of their destiny, the society is then diverse, multi-faceted and not in sync. Avoiding synchronism is the dominant ideology of liberalism. The representatives of liberalism in this period share the absolutism of individual freedom in common. The state should create favorable conditions outside for each individual to develop basic freedoms. Wilhelm von Humboldt was one of the typical philosophers in Germany who opposed the absolute state intervention.

Wilhelm von Humboldt thinks that every human being has an “inner” and an “outer” part, in which the “inner” part is distinct from the “outside” and has social connections. They will be developed through the interaction between their own personality and the others’. Wilhelm von Humboldt specifically emphasizes that those who are alone can not develop, just be chained. Man must break all chains in society to establish new relationships. That will not only lead to the reform of the authoritarian state but also the nature of the relationship between the state and the people. Wilhelm von Humboldt was very impressed by the democratic system in ancient Greece. He assumed that such a mechanism has brought harmony to human as an individual and a citizen. This is because the State aimed to promote goodness in every human being and their education educated citizens in moderation. Wilhelm von Humboldt compared with German politics at that time. He indicated that the State aimed at material prosperity, thus strangled mankind. In that society, people are looked down on and educated in the role of training obedient citizens only working and producing as machinery. From the practical point of view, Wilhelm von Humboldt proposed “the end of man, or that which is prescribed by the eternal or immutable dictates of reason, and not suggested by vague and transient desires, is the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole”; that, therefore, the object “towards which every human being must ceaselessly direct his efforts, and on which especially those who design to influence their fellow-men must ever keep their eyes, is the individuality of power and development”; that for this there are two requisites, “freedom, and variety of situations”; and that from the union of these arise “individual vigor and manifold diversity” which combine themselves in “originality” [ 5; 53-54]. John Stuart Mill highly appreciated this idea of Wilhelm von Humboldt and developed into the principle of freedom in order to achieve a harmonious relationship between the individuals and the social community towards the development goal.

In his book “The Limits of State Action”, Wilhelm von Humboldt formulated the basic concepts of liberalism. John Stuart Mill was a thinker who developed and spread Wilhelm von Humboldt’s thought in many works. In particular, in “On Liberty”, John Stuart Mill gave praise to the German philosopher. At the same time, John Stuart Mill also agreed with the thought of Wilhelm von Humboldt on asserting that “synchronism” is not considered as an important value for each individual. John Stuart Mill commented on the development of industrialization and the living conditions became more and more similar making life style and thoughts more stereotypical. “Comparatively speaking, they now read the same things, listen to the same things, see the same things, go to the same places, have their hopes and fears directed to the same objects, have the same rights and liberties, and the same means of asserting them” [ 5; 68]. John Stuart Mill said that these things hinder and harm personal freedom. From the above analysis, it can be said that the issue of liberty and the problem in building the education have a close relation in Wilhelm von Humboldt's theory. This is one of the direct theoretical precepts for John Stuart Mill to formulate views on education.

2.3. John Stuart Mill's Opinion about Education and Promoting the Role of Education

First, the right to learn, to approach the general education is one of the human right of liberty

John Stuart Mill was influenced Western thought since the nineteenth century and even now. Positive reviews are the most public appreciation of the value of his thought. In his writings, he discussed the issue of liberty. The problem of liberty and the problem of building an education are closely related.

According to John Stuart Mill, human beings have fundamental freedoms; among those rights, they have the right to study and enjoy the general education. He emphasized the necessity of compulsory schooling universalization, even obligatory “the State should require and compel the education, up to a certain standard, of every human being who is born its citizen?” [ 5; 96]. He supports the state has the right to force parents to facilitate the education of children. According to John Stuart Mill, “that to bring a child into existence without a fair prospect of being able, not only to provide food for its body, but instruction and training for its mind, is a moral crime, both against the unfortunate offspring and against society” [ 5; 96]. Parents need to have an obligation for the child to have a proper education so that the child understands his or her obligations to himself or herself. At a certain age, the child must pass the exam to determine their reading ability. If the child can not read and the parents have no real reason, they will be punished with a reasonable amount. If they want to encourage poor children to go to school, the state must exempt the full cost of education. “If the government would make up its mind to require for every child a good education, it might save itself the trouble of providing one. It might leave to parents to obtain the education where and how they pleased, and content itself with helping to pay the school fees of the poorer classes of children, and defraying the entire school expenses of those who have no one else to pay for them” [ 5; 97].

John Stuart Mill wanted education not only for children but also for women. He judged this to be of great significance in the liberation of women so that they had the opportunity to develop as men, to be perfected and to be equated with people. Specifically, in 1869, for the first time, a student from Girton College, University of Cambridge had been taught and assessed the test of political economy. John Stuart Mill was interested in the issue of universal education due to historical circumstances: in England, the number of illiterates was the highest in Europe at that time. In 1838, in Manchester, over one hundred married men had 45 days to use their signature instead of the local register because they could not write. In England, the aristocracy and the middle class send their children to the Public School, and the people send their children to the school of the Church. With the Education Act of 1870 and the Forster Act - England began a national education system. The Forster Act requires that in a village that did not have a free school, a state school was still of a religious nature that did not belong to the Church. By 1891, the education system in England was compulsory and by 1912 education was free for everyone. By both theory and practice, John Stuart Mill has made major contributions to education in the United Kingdom.

Second, education is a condition for individuals to be able to protect their own rights of liberty

According to John Stuart Mill, education is not only a condition for people to exercise civil liberties but it also is an important condition for ensuring the implementation of the politics of every citizen. This was presented by John Stuart Mill in Representative Government. In this work, John Stuart Mill discussed the criterion of a good form of government (Chapter 2): As it is first made, so it has to be worked, by men, and even by ordinary men. It needs, not their simple acquiescence, but their active participation; and must be adjusted to the capacities and qualities of such men as are available. This implies three conditions. The people for whom the form of government is intended must be willing to accept it; or at least not so unwilling as to oppose an insurmountable obstacle to its establishment. They must be willing and able to do what is necessary to keep it standing. And they must be willing and able to do what it requires of them to enable it to fulfil its purposes. There is also another consideration not to be lost sight of. “A people may be unprepared for good institutions; but to kindle a desire for them is a necessary part of the preparation. To recommend and advocate a particular institution or form of government, and set its advantages in the strongest light, is one of the modes, often the only mode within reach, of educating the mind of the nation not only for accepting or claiming, but also for working, the institution. What means had Italian patriots, during the last and present generation, of preparing the Italian people for freedom in unity, but by inciting them to demand it? Those, however, who undertake such a task, need to be duly impressed, not solely with the benefits of the institution or polity which they recommend, but also with the capacities, moral, intellectual, and active, required for working it; that they may avoid, if possible, stirring up a desire too much in advance of the capacity” [ 6, p.12].

Besides that, John Stuart Mill discussed about the issue of British election at that time. In the nineteenth century, the United Kingdom undertook political reforms: first in 1832, with the Reform Act being signed by the king, formally in force. The Reformation Act of 1832 was the result of the Radical’s struggle (the representatives were Jemery Bentham and John Stuart Mill) calling for popular vote, demanding the right to vote for all British workers who pay taxes directly. It extends the right to vote for the new middle class, easing political tensions in society. British political history continues to be marked by the Second Congressional Reform in 1867. This reform extends more than the right to vote, giving the basic working class the right to vote (except mine and agricultural workers). Before that, John Stuart Mill made a proposal for the principle of voting majority with a requirement for an extension of voting rights. Whether voters are majority or minority, they will find their representatives. John Stuart Mill gave his views on additional ballots. John Stuart Mill emphasized the understanding of educated people, so he thinks these people need to be given more votes than those who are uneducated. Since then, he has promoted education, especially political education, to make people wiser when choosing their representatives. At the same time, this is also a condition for them to always be able to protect their freedoms. Mill is not a supporter of secret balloting, as it will facilitate abuses of power, corruption and bribery. In an effort to avoid this, John Suart Mill advocated an open system of elections. He also promoted the role of direct elections rather than a two-stage election. According to him, the benefits that indirect elections are the same as what the direct ones bring. In addition, direct elections will increase voters' accountability when they find themselves important towards the outcome of the election. Finally, in order for election work to really be a way of empowering the people and to utilize their rights, Mill emphasized an important task which is spiritual and mental education and political intelligence for the people.

As a scholar with a compassionate and progressive heart, being supported and encouraged by his wife, John Stuart Mill is very interested in women's rights. He found that the demarcation of society was not just between the classes and their problems, but simply between men and women. John Stuart Mill realized that he needed to resist the contemporary society’s prejudice. In the age of John Stuart Mill, the woman had a very blurry social role. They were looked down on in position and capacity. For John Stuart Mill, assuming that women are dependent on men is wrong and dangerous. According to him, the source of the oppression of women is the domination of the family and society. He pointed out measures to liberate women, in which the most important measure is to better education, so that women have the equal opportunity to develop as men. John Stuart Mill is not just a theorist; he is also an active advocate for the rights of women as a parliamentarian. He was the first to put the issue of women's rights on the political agenda. In 1866, the petition for the right to vote with the signature of 1500 women was submitted to the House of Commons by John Stuart Mill. In the reform of 1867, John Stuart Mill made a famous modification, replacing the “man” by the word “person”. Even though it was not successful at the time of the submission, it was the most powerful attempt by a parliamentarian to fight for women's rights.

Third, education plays an important role in building democracy

In “On liberty”, John Stuart Mill asserts that the job of education is to cultivate both sides. In order to achieve good results, in addition to teaching, persuading to apply coercive measures, and only through convincing methods, personal qualities are firmly rooted in the past”. When studying ancient Greek history, Ancient Rome,

John Stuart Mill found very precisely the lesson that the Athenian and Roman democracies left behind. According to him, the collapse of Athenian democracy, stemming from the fact that all members of society, including the uneducated, are directly involved in the work of the nation. Aristotle also highlighted the role of education in building the government. According to Aristotle, the masses must be educated so that people live and act in the spirit of the constitution making the regime. Educational issues for the people, not only to teach them to carry out the right of the government but to let them know what to avoid doing things to regress. Education thus plays a major role in building democracy.

John Stuart Mill soon realized the dangers of democracy stemming from the limitations of voters' lack of knowledge. Then, freedom becomes dangerous. He found that in French political institutions. According to him, France has shown a daunting lesson about the dangers of allowing uneducated people to participate in democracy: “The millions of voters, who, in opposition to nearly every educated person in the country, made Louis Napoleon President, were chiefly peasants who could neither read nor write” [ 7, p.327]. He did not support Louis Napoleon because Louis Napoleon was made up of people who lacked education and who created a dictatorship.

John Stuart Mill admired the institution of the Second Republic. Thus, Louis Napoleon’s Coup in December 1852 became a shock to John Stuart Mill. John Stuart Mill is one of the few early thinkers to perceive the danger of democracy stemming from the constraint of lackluster, uneducated electorates. Then, democracy can become dangerous. In 1850, John Stuart Mill wrote that he and Harriet “… because so long as education continues to be so wretchedly imperfect, we dreaded the ignorance and especially the selfishness and brutality of the mass” [ 4; 239]. Thus education is always a policy that he pursues life. Starting from the support and appreciation of the educational role, J. S. Mill viewed that people are not equipped with education as a “moral crime”, both against the individual and against Back to society. Crimes against individuals mean that humans are born but have no right to perfection, to rise as a free entity. The crime against society means a society full of ignorant citizens; it will be a society cannot develop.

The unique point in John Stuart Mill's philosophy is that he has launched a project to build a professional civil service. John Stuart Mill once wrote that no progress can be made towards achieving a mature democracy unless the democracies willing for proficiency work must be made by competent people. John Stuart Mill said that along with the head, civil servants made great contributions to perfecting the administrative apparatus. With the aim of making public administration more efficient, that is, for the benefit of the people, the recruitment of civil servants must be thorough and require a transparent public examination. According to him, the contestants are at the early age of maturity, lack of professional experience. The only thing that distinguishes the best candidates from bad ones lies in their educational background. Therefore, the contest he must be questioned in matters that every good educator should know, even if that knowledge is not relevant to the job in which he is to be appointed. Also, almost all non-recruits are not ignorant in high-level majors, but even the most trivial elements - spelling and arithmetic. John Stuart Mill argues that the qualities and capabilities of the staff are one of the high internal forces that bring success to the representative regime so that that institution indeed promotes the exact nature and role of it. It can be seen that, in the representative design of John Stuart Mill, civil servants are the key people who play the role of developing the design. The class of professional public servants is a vast and important group that encompasses the permanent power of public service. John Stuart Mill identifies a high level of duty for the civil servants' profession, aiming to build a perfect polity.

In the “Representative government”, the local government holds a significant place in the relationship with the central government. The role of local administration agencies is not pursuing higher things but carrying out important political education. John Stuart Mill argues that the spiritual education of the people in local governments plays important role than that of public affairs, and especially, in this case, the vital interests are not dependent on the quality of management, they should allow us to prioritize the moral education rather than the overall quality of management of the whole empire.

As can be seen in his writings, John Stuart Mill discusses liberal, democratic, and representative politics in which he particularly emphasizes the role of education in exercising personal liberty and extending its democracy. His educational ideas have always been accepted by generations of readers. However, in his mind lack of consistency, many places are ideal. Also by highlighting the role of education, John Stuart Mill paid special attention to outstanding individuals. He argued that intellectual elites must be responsible for social leadership to meet the requirements of reform and development. Due to the perception of the role of the intellectuals, he also underestimates the role of the masses. In his writings, he showed his disrespect for the masses and regarded them as a uniformly homogeneous collective. Although he encouraged a broader education for all classes of people, in reality, there are parts of the population who are unable to access such education. Therefore, they became ignorant. This explains why John Stuart Mill is always afraid that the ignorance of the uneducated will be a weakness, impeding the exercise of democracy. This fear of John Stuart Mill is not unreasonable. However, the poor life, the illiteracy of the majority of the population is not their own status. Due to the limitations of the class position, he did not see the situation of the workers as a result of the socio-economic conditions of the method of production of capital punishment.

3. Conclusion

Today, wisdom has become the leading indicator of the power and control of a nation. Countries around the world are aware that education plays a role in socio-economic development. Especially, for developing countries like Vietnam, it is necessary to pay attention to education and to be determined that investment in education is an investment for development. Only a right human development strategy will help countries quickly get out of economic poverty and technological disadvantages. Even thought, John Stuart Mill’s ideas on education not only have historical meanings but also have values of the times.

Firstly, John Stuart Mill’s philosophy of educational development, universal education to date, is still valid. At present, in Vietnam, the issue of universalization of education is the responsibility of the whole political system, which is the task of all families and the entire society to create an active people base for developing high-quality human resources. Communist Party of Vietnam defines the position and role of education and training as the top national policy to improve people's knowledge, train human resources, and foster talents. The current educational strategy in our country is aimed at teaching Vietnamese generations to meet the requirements of socio - economic development.

The second, John Stuart Mill views education as an essential building block for democracy. Despite the different class stances, this idea of John Stuart Mill is similar to the theory of Ho Chi Minh about education. Ho Chi Minh confirmed an ignorant national is a flabby national. Therefore, Ho Chi Minh was very interested in education and thinks that the task of teaching must be fulfilled the requirements of the revolution. At the time of preparing for the establishment of Communist Party of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh focused on the deployment of training courses in Guangzhou, China to improve the cadre's awareness of the revolutionary to Vietnam. At the stage of the resistance war and the building of democracy of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh called for the revision of education to suit the training of talents of the national strength. All educational activities have the task of protecting the nation. At present, education meets the requirements of socio-economic development, but also attaches importance to political education to protect political institutions.

The third, education improves people's general awareness but also identifies and fosters talented people, and makes a team of professional civil servants. In particular, in Vietnam, beside socio - economic development, the Communist Party of Vietnam has reformed administrative procedures from administrative reform to streamlined administration. Moreover, as a public authority, the state will be empowered through the strength of every cadre and civil servant. Reform is only best when it comes from the human factor - that is, development a truly professional public servant.

In short, John Stuart Mill believes that the right of human nature can base on the role of education and self-cultivation to cultivate morality and virtue. The life itself is a testament to that. Although this idea is more than satisfactory, however, with a tireless dedication, John Stuart Mill has left many works of deep thought and inspiration for readers. Today, on the River Thames in London, the British set up a bronze portrait of the philosopher to acknowledge his contribution to the field of thought and reason.


[1]  Benjamin Dumville, 2011. Philosophy and Education, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, United Kingdom.
In article      
[2]  Geoffrey Scarre, 1996. Utilitarianism. New York: Routledge, pp. 133-151.
In article      
[3]  Roland N. Stromberg, 1968. European intellectual history since 1789, Appleton Century Crofts (Educational Division – Meredith Corporation), New York.
In article      PubMed
[4]  John Stuart Mill, 1981. The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill – Volume 1: Autobiography and literary essays, University of Toronto Press (Canada), Editor John M. Robson and Jack Stillinger.
In article      
[5]  John Stuart Mill, 1859. On liberty. Batoche Books Limited 2012, 52 Eby Street South Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
In article      
[6]  John Stuart Mill, 1861. Representative Government, Batoche Books Limited 2001, 52 Eby Street South Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
In article      
[7]  John Stuart Mill, 1977. Ibid, vol 19.
In article      
In article      View Article

Published with license by Science and Education Publishing, Copyright © 2018 Nguyen Thi Xiem

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Normal Style
Nguyen Thi Xiem. John Stuart Mill’s Liberal thought on Education and the Dissemination of Education in Enforcing the Right of Liberty. American Journal of Educational Research. Vol. 6, No. 5, 2018, pp 570-577.
MLA Style
Xiem, Nguyen Thi. "John Stuart Mill’s Liberal thought on Education and the Dissemination of Education in Enforcing the Right of Liberty." American Journal of Educational Research 6.5 (2018): 570-577.
APA Style
Xiem, N. T. (2018). John Stuart Mill’s Liberal thought on Education and the Dissemination of Education in Enforcing the Right of Liberty. American Journal of Educational Research, 6(5), 570-577.
Chicago Style
Xiem, Nguyen Thi. "John Stuart Mill’s Liberal thought on Education and the Dissemination of Education in Enforcing the Right of Liberty." American Journal of Educational Research 6, no. 5 (2018): 570-577.
[1]  Benjamin Dumville, 2011. Philosophy and Education, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, United Kingdom.
In article      
[2]  Geoffrey Scarre, 1996. Utilitarianism. New York: Routledge, pp. 133-151.
In article      
[3]  Roland N. Stromberg, 1968. European intellectual history since 1789, Appleton Century Crofts (Educational Division – Meredith Corporation), New York.
In article      PubMed
[4]  John Stuart Mill, 1981. The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill – Volume 1: Autobiography and literary essays, University of Toronto Press (Canada), Editor John M. Robson and Jack Stillinger.
In article      
[5]  John Stuart Mill, 1859. On liberty. Batoche Books Limited 2012, 52 Eby Street South Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
In article      
[6]  John Stuart Mill, 1861. Representative Government, Batoche Books Limited 2001, 52 Eby Street South Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
In article      
[7]  John Stuart Mill, 1977. Ibid, vol 19.
In article      
In article      View Article