John Curtin's early education at a Christian Brothers' school in Melbourne emphasised learning by rote. By contrast, his later schooling in Charlton encouraged him to 'awaken an independent and enquiring mind' and develop a love of learning. He left school at age 14 and joined the workforce to help support his family.
As a young man John Curtin joined the Victorian Socialist Party which provided its members with a 'self-contained universe of social, educational and propagandist activity'. He thrived in this environment, studying hard and reading voraciously, especially in the area of economics. He became a capable teacher, speaker and writer.
As Secretary of the Timber Workers' Union (1911 to 1915) he wrote in the first issue of the union paper he founded:
...the great requirement is knowledge and organisation. Knowledge by workers of workers and of workers' conditions. We are to teach and learn! 1
Moving to WA as editor of the Labor weekly, the Westralian Worker, John Curtin's driving impulse for educating workers and for self education continued. The motto of the paper's publisher suited him - 'A drop of ink will make millions think'. In his editorials, he stressed the need for more effective educational campaigns, social welfare programs and a policy of economic self-sufficiency for Australia.
As president of the Western Australian district of the Australian Journalists' Association from 1920 to 1925, John Curtin sought to improve its members education as well as their wages and working conditions.
To associate for education is not less splendid, and is no less profitable, than to associate for wages. 2