The transcendentalist´s view on education is focused on the student as the master of his own knowledge. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the leader of the movement, said, "The secret to education lies in respecting the pupil. It's not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do."
Emerson and his peers, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walt Whitman, held the belief that the basic truths of the universe lie beyond the five senses, reason, logic or the rules of science. They were modern thinkers and actively criticized the culture of their day for blind uniformity. In their collective writings they urged man to find his unique relationship with the universe at large. They also had a strong voice in the opposition against slavery.
Henry David Thoreau wrote "Walden" after spending two years living in a simple shack on Walden Pond living life with what he called "a purpose." The pond was owned by Emerson and the book that Thoreau wrote as a result of his experience would become a staple of American philosophy.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a Harvard educated Unitarian minister who was the leader of the transcendentalists. He resigned his post as minister after the death of his wife from tuberculosis. After which, he traveled to Europe for a year where the ideas that would form the basics of transcendentalism began to form.
Emerson´s essays included "Self-Reliance" and "Nature," and heavily influenced Thoreau and his writing.