In a 1930 article published in Pictorial Review, Eleanor Roosevelt asked a crucial question: 'What is the purpose of education?'
Going beyond the 'conventional answer' focusing on the acquisition of knowledge and the learning of facts, she stressed that the true goals of education were twofold. First, the creation of 'informed and intelligent citizens,' and second, 'the realization that we are all responsible for the trend of thought and the action of our times.' ER believed that the most important element was not the teacher's knowledge, presented as 'infallible and all-embracing,' but the encouragement of students to seek out knowledge for themselves. Curiosity, she stressed, should be 'insatiable.' Drawing on the inspiration of her uncle Theodore Roosevelt, she argued that a democracy could only function to its highest ideals with an educated, informed citizenry.
Education is central to the purpose of the RIAS. The Institute is a small-scale graduate school for PhD candidates in the field of modern US / North American history. Its staff organize courses and lecture regularly at universities around the Netherlands at both the BA and MA levels. Assistance is also provided for the history programs at local high schools in Zeeland.
To reward high-quality scholarship, the RIAS hosts the annual Theodore Roosevelt American History Award (TRAHA) for the best MA thesis on a topic of US history or culture.
More broadly, the RIAS functions as a training center, providing an internship position for BA and MA students to work at the Institute for periods of up to three months. Students are also supervised for specific projects related to developing the archival holdings of the Institute. Digital and audio-visual source materials on US history are available for teachers and students on request.