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The University of Hard Knocks
by Ralph Parlette
The School That Completes Our Education
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son"--Revelation 21:7.
"Sweet are the uses of adversity; Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head; And thus our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks Sermons in stones, and good in everything."
Why It Is Printed
MORE than a million people have sat in audiences in all parts of the United States and have listened to "The University of Hard Knocks." It has been delivered to date more than twenty-five hundred times upon lyceum courses, at chautauquas, teachers' institutes, club gatherings, conventions and before various other kinds of audiences. Ralph Parlette is kept busy year after year lecturing, because his lectures deal with universal human experience.
"Can I get the lecture in book form?" That continuous question from audiences brought out this book in response. Here is the overflow of many deliveries.
"What is written here is not the way I would write it, were I writing a book," says Ralph Parlette. "It is the way I say it. The lecture took this unconscious colloquial form before audiences. An audience makes a lecture, if the lecture survives. I wish I could shake the hand of every person who has sat in my audiences. And I wish I could tell the lecture committees of America how I appreciate the vast amount of altruistic work they have done in bringing the audiences of America together. For lecture audiences are not drawn together, they are pushed together."
The warm reception given "The University of Hard Knocks" by the public, has encouraged the publishers to put more of Mr. Parlette's lectures into book form, "Big Business" and "Pockets and Paradises" are now in preparation as this, the third edition of "The University of Hard Knocks" comes from the press.
SOME PRELIMINARY REMARKS--The lecturer the delivery wagon--The sorghum barrel--Audience must have place to put lecture--Why so many words
The University of Hard Knocks
I. THE BOOKS ARE BUMPS--Every bump a lesson--Why the two kinds of bumps--Description of University--"Sweet are the uses of Adversity"--Why children are not interested
II. THE COLLEGE OF NEEDLESS KNOCKS, the bumps that we bump into--Getting the coffee-pot--Teaching a wilful child--Bumps make us "stop, look, listen"--Blind man learns with one bump--Going up requires effort--Prodigals must be bumped--The fly and the sticky fly-paper--"Removed" and "knocked out"
III. THE COLLEGE OF NEEDFUL KNOCKS, the bumps that bump into us--Our sorrows and disappointments--How the piano was made--How the "red mud" becomes razor-blades--The world our mirror--The cripple taught by the bumps--Every bump brings a blessing--You are never down and out
IV. "SHAKE THE BARREL"--How we decide our destinies--Why the big ones shake up and the little ones shake down--The barrel of life sorting people--How we hold our places, go down, go up--Good luck and bad luck--The girl who went up--The man who went down--The fatal rattle--We must get ready to get--Testimonials and press notices--You cannot uplift people with derrick--No laws can equalize--Help people to help themselves--We cannot get things till we get ready for them
V. GOING UP--How we become great--We must get inside greatness-- There is no top--We make ourselves great by service--the first step at hand--All can be greatest--Where to find great people--A glimpse of Gunsaulus
VI. THE PROBLEM OF "PREPAREDNESS"--Preparing children for life--Most "advantages" are disadvantages--Buying education for children--The story of "Gussie" and "Bill Whackem"--Schools and books only give better tools for service--"Hard knocks" graduates-- Menace of America not swollen fortunes but shrunken souls-- Children must have struggle to get strength--Not packhorse work-- Helping the turkeys killed them--the happiness of work we love-- Amusement drunkards--Lure of the city--Strong men from the country-- Must save the home towns--A school of struggle--New School experiment
VII. THE SALVATION OF A "SUCKER"--You can't get something for nothing--The fiddle and the tuning--How we know things--Trimmed at the shell game--My "fool drawer"--Getting "selected to receive 1,000 per cent"--You must earn what you own--Commencement orations--My maiden sermon--The books that live have been lived--Singer must live songs--Successful songs written from experience--Theory and
practice--Tuning the strings of life
VIII. LOOKING BACKWARD--Memories of the price we pay--My first school teaching--Loaning the deacon my money--Calling the roll of my schoolmates--At the grave of the boy I had envied--Why Ben Hur won the chariot race--Pulling on the oar
IX. GO ON SOUTH!--The book in the running brook--The Mississippi keeps on going south and growing greater--We generally start well, but stop--Few go on south--The plague of incompetents--Today our best day, tomorrow to be better--Birthdays are promotions--I am just beginning--Bernhardt, Davis, Edison--Moses begins at eighty--Too busy to bury--Sympathy for the "sob squad"--Child sees worst days, not best--Waiting for the second table--Better days on south--Overcoming obstacles develops power--Go on south from principle, not praise--Doing duty for the joy of it--Becoming the "Father of Waters"--Go on south forever!
X. GOING UP LIFE'S MOUNTAIN--The defeats that are victories-- Climbing Mount Lowe--Getting above the clouds into the sunshine-- Each day we rise to larger vision--Getting above the night into the eternal day--Going south is going upward
Some Preliminary Remarks
LADIES and Gentlemen: I do not want to be seen in this lecture. I want to be heard. I am only the delivery wagon. When the delivery wagon comes to your house, you are not much interested in how it looks; you are interested in the goods it brings you. You know some very good goods are sometimes delivered to you in some very poor delivery wagons.
So in this lecture, please do not pay any attention to the delivery wagon--how much it squeaks and wheezes and rattles and wabbles. Do not pay much attention to the wrappings and strings. Get inside to the goods.
Really, I believe the goods are good. I believe I am to recite to you some of the multiplication table of life--not mine, not yours alone, but everybody's.
Can Only Pull the Plug!
Every audience has a different temperature, and that makes a lecture go differently before every audience. The kind of an audience is just as important as the kind of a lecture. A cold audience will make a good lecture poor, while a warm audience will make a poor lecture good.
Let me illustrate:
When I was a boy we had a barrel of sorghum in the woodshed. When mother wanted to make ginger-bread or cookies, she would send me to the woodshed to get a bucket of sorghum from that barrel.
Some warm September day I would pull the plug from the barrel and the sorghum would fairly squirt into my bucket. Later in the fall when it was colder, I would pull the plug but the sorghum would not squirt. It would come out slowly and reluctantly, so that I would have to wait a long while to get a little sorghum. And on some real cold winter day I would pull the plug, but the sorghum would not run at all. It would just look out at me.
I discovered it was the temperature.
I have brought a barrel of sorghum to this audience. The name of the sorghum is "The University of Hard Knocks." I can only pull the plug. I cannot make it run. That will depend upon the temperature of this audience. You can have all you want of it, but to get it to running freely, you will have to warm up.
Did You Bring a Bucket?
No matter how the sorghum runs, you have to have a bucket to get it. How much any one gets out of a lecture depends also upon the size of the bucket he brings to get it in. A big bucket can get filled at a very small stream. A little bucket gets little at the greatest stream. With no bucket you can get nothing at Niagara.
That often explains why one person says a lecture is great, while the next person says he got nothing out of it.
What It's All About
Here is a great mass of words and sentences and pictures to express two or three simple little ideas of life, that our education is our growing up from the Finite to the Infinite, and that it is done by our own personal overcoming, and that we never finish it.
Have you noticed that no sentence, nor a million sentences, can bound life? Have you noticed that every statement does not quite cover it? No statement, no library, can tell all about life. No success rule can alone solve the problem. You must average it all and struggle up to a higher vision.
We are told that the stomach needs bulk as well as nutriment. It would not prosper with the necessary elements in their condensed form. So abstract truths in their lowest terms do not always promote mental digestion like more bulk in the way of pictures and discussions of these truths. Here is bulk as well as nutriment.
If you get the feeling that the first personal pronoun is being overworked, I remind you that this is more a confession than a lecture. You cannot confess without referring to the confesser.
To Everybody in My Audience
I like you because I am like you.
I believe in you because I believe in myself. We are all one family. I believe in your Inside, not in your Outside, whoever you are, whatever you are, wherever you are.
I believe in the Angel of Good inside every block of human marble. I believe it must be carved out in The University of Hard Knocks.
I believe all this pride, vanity, selfishness, self-righteousness, hypocrisy and human frailty are the Outside that must be chipped away.
I believe the Hard Knocks cannot injure the Angel, but can only reveal it.
I hope you are getting your Hard Knocks.
I care little about your glorious or inglorious past. I care little about your present. I care much about your future for that is to see more of the Angel in you.
The University of Hard Knocks
The Books Are Bumps
THE greatest school is the University of Hard Knocks. Its books are bumps.
Every bump is a lesson. If we learn the lesson with one bump, we do not get that bump again. We do not need it. We have traveled past it. They do not waste the bumps. We get promoted to the next bump.
But if we are "naturally bright," or there is something else the matter with us, so that we do not learn the lesson of the bump we have just gotten, then that bump must come back and bump us again.
Some of us learn to go forward with a few bumps, but most of us are "naturally bright" and have to be pulverized.
The tuition in the University of Hard Knocks is not free. Experience is the dearest teacher in the world. Most of us spend our lives in the A-B-C's of getting started.
We matriculate in the cradle.
We never graduate. When we stop learning we are due for another bump.
There are two kinds of people--wise people and fools. The fools are the people who think they have graduated.
The playground is all of God's universe.
The university colors are black and blue.
The yell is "ouch" repeated ad lib.
The Need of the Bumps
When I was thirteen I knew a great deal more than I do now. There was a sentence in my grammar that disgusted me. It was by some foreigner I had never met. His name was Shakespeare. It was this:
"Sweet are the uses of adversity; Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a priceless jewel in its head; And thus our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything."
"Tongues in trees," I thought. "Trees can't talk! That man is crazy. Books in running brooks! Why nobody never puts no books in no running brooks. They'd get wet. And that sermons in stones! They get preachers to preach sermons, and they build houses out of stones."
I was sorry for Shakespeare--when I was thirteen.
But I am happy today that I have traveled a little farther. I am happy that I have begun to learn the lessons from the bumps. I am happy that I am learning the sweet tho painful lessons of the University of Adversity. I am happy that I am beginning to listen. For as I learn to listen, I hear every tree speaking, every stone preaching and every running brook the unfolding of a book.
Children, I fear you will not be greatly interested in what is to follow. Perhaps you are "naturally bright" and feel sorry for Shakespeare.
I was not interested when father and mother told me these things. I knew they meant all right, but the world had moved since they were young, and now two and two made seven, because we lived so much faster.
It is so hard to tell young people anything. They know better. So they have to get bumped just where we got bumped, to learn that two and two always makes four, and "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
But if you will remember some of these things, they will feel like poultices by and by when the bumps come.
The Two Colleges
As we get bumped and battered on life's pathway, we discover we get two kinds of bumps--bumps that we need and bumps that we do not need.
Bumps that we bump into and bumps that bump into us.
We discover, in other words, that The University of Hard Knocks has two colleges--The College of Needless Knocks and The College of Needful Knocks.
We attend both colleges.
The College of Needless Knocks
The Bumps That We Bump Into
NEARLY all the bumps we get are Needless Knocks.
There comes a vivid memory of one of my early Needless Knocks as I say that. It was back at the time when I was trying to run our home to suit myself. I sat in the highest chair in the family circle. I was three years old and ready to graduate.
That day they had the little joy and sunshine of the family in his high-chair throne right up beside the dinner table. The coffee-pot was within grabbing distance.
I became enamored with that coffee-pot. I decided I needed that coffee-pot in my business. I reached over to get the coffee-pot. Then I discovered a woman beside me, my mother. She was the most meddlesome woman I had ever known. I had not tried to do one thing in three years that that woman had not meddled into.
And that day when I wanted the coffee-pot--I did want it. Nobody knows how I desired that coffee-pot. "One thing thou lackest," a coffee-pot-- I was reaching over to get it, that woman said, "Don't touch that!"
The longer I thought about it the more angry I became. What right has that woman to meddle into my affairs all the time? I have stood this petticoat tyranny three years, and it is time to stop it!
I stopped it. I got the coffee-pot. I know I got the coffee-pot. I got it unanimously. I know when I got it and I also know where I got it. I got about a gallon of the reddest, hottest coffee a bad boy ever spilled over himself.
O-o-o-o-o-o! I can feel it yet!
There were weeks after that when I was upholstered. They put applebutter on me--and coal oil and white-of-an-egg and starch and anything else the neighbors could think of. They would bring it over and rub it on the little joy and sunshine of the family, who had gotten temporarily eclipsed.
Teaching a Wilful Child