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Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania

MORALITY, (* 16) by descanting and making continual Observations on the Causes of the Rise or Fall of any Man’s Character, Fortune, Power, &c. mention’d in History; the Advantages of Temperance, Order, Frugality, Industry, Perseverance, &c. &c. (* 17) Indeed the general natural Tendency of Reading good History, must be, to fix in the Minds of Youth deep Impressions of the Beauty and Usefulness of Virtue of all Kinds, Publick Spirit, Fortitude, &c.

History will show the wonderful Effects of ORATORY, in governing, turning and leading great Bodies of Mankind, Armies, Cities, Nations. When the Minds of Youth are struck with Admiration at this, (* 18) then is the Time to give them the Principles of that Art, which they will study with Taste and Application. Then they may be made acquainted with the best Models among the Antients, their Beauties being particularly pointed out to them. Modern Political Oratory being chiefly performed by the Pen and Press, its Advantages over the Antient in some Respects are to be shown; as that its Effects are more extensive, more lasting, &c.

History will also afford frequent Opportunities of showing the Necessity of a Publick Religion, from its Usefulness to the Publick; the Advantage of a Religious Character among private Persons; the Mischiefs of Superstition, &c. and the Excellency of the CHRISTIAN RELIGION above all others antient or modern (* 19).

History will also give Occasion to expatiate on the Advantage of Civil Orders and Constitutions, how Men and their Properties are protected by joining in Societies and establishing Government; their Industry encouraged and rewarded, Arts invented, and Life made more comfortable: The Advantages of Liberty, Mischiefs of Licentiousness, Benefits arising from good Laws and a due Execution of Justice, &c. Thus may the first Principles of sound (* 20) Politicks be fix’d in the Minds of Youth.

On Historical Occasions, Questions of Right and Wrong, Justice and Injustice, will naturally arise, and may be put to Youth, which they may debate in Conversation and in Writing (* 21). When they ardently desire Victory, for the Sake of the Praise attending it, they will begin to feel the Want, and be sensible of the Use of Logic, or the Art of Reasoning to discover Truth, and of Arguing to defend it, and convince Adversaries. This would be the Time to acquaint them with the Principles of that Art. Grotius, Puffendorff, and some other Writers of the same Kind, may be used on these Occasions to decide their Disputes. (* 22) Publick Disputes warm the Imagination, whet the Industry, and strengthen the natural Abilities.

When Youth are told, that the Great Men whose Lives and Actions they read in History, spoke two of the best Languages that ever were, the most expressive, copious, beautiful; and that the finest Writings, the most correct Compositions, the most perfect Productions of human Wit and Wisdom, are in those Languages, which have endured Ages, and will endure while there are Men; that no Translation can do them Justice, or give the Pleasure found in Reading the Originals; that those Languages contain all Science; that one of them is become almost universal, being the Language of Learned Men in all Countries; that to understand them is a distinguishing Ornament, &c. they may be thereby made desirous of learning those Languages, and their Industry sharpen’d in the Acquisition of them. All intended for Divinity should be taught the Latin and Greek; for Physick, the Latin, Greek and French; for Law, the Latin and French; Merchants, the French, German, and Spanish: And though all should not be compell’d to learn Latin, Greek, or the modern foreign Languages; yet none that have an ardent Desire to learn them should be refused; their English, Arithmetick, and other Studies absolutely necessary, being at the same Time not neglected.

If the new Universal History were also read, it would give a connected Idea of human Affairs, so far as it goes, which should be follow’d by the best modern Histories, particularly of our Mother Country; then of these Colonies; which should be accompanied with Observations on their Rise, Encrease, Use to Great-Britain, Encouragements, Discouragements, &c. the Means to make them flourish, secure their Liberties, &c.

With the History of Men, Times and Nations, should be read at proper Hours or Days, some of the best Histories of Nature (* 23), which would not only be delightful to Youth, and furnish them with Matter for their Letters, &c. as well as other History; but afterwards of great Use to them, whether they are Merchants, Handicrafts, or Divines; enabling the first the better to understand many Commodities, Drugs, &c. the second to improve his Trade or Handicraft by new Mixtures, Materials, &c. and the last to adorn his Discourses by beautiful Comparisons, and strengthen them by new Proofs of Divine Providence. The Conversation of all will be improved by it, as Occasions frequently occur of making Natural Observations, which are instructive, agreeable, and entertaining in almost all Companies. Natural History will also afford Opportunities of introducing many Observations, relating to the Preservation of Health, which may be afterwards of great Use. Arbuthnot on Air and Aliment, Sanctorius on Perspiration, Lemery on Foods, and some others, may now be read, and a very little Explanation will make them sufficiently intelligible to Youth.

While they are reading Natural History, might not a little Gardening, Planting, Grafting, Inoculating, &c. be taught and practised; and now and then Excursions made to the neighbouring Plantations of the best Farmers, their Methods observ’d and reason’d upon for the Information of Youth. The Improvement of Agriculture being useful to all (* 24), and Skill in it no Disparagement to any.

The History of Commerce, of the Invention of Arts, Rise of Manufactures, Progress of Trade, Change of its Seats, with the Reasons, Causes, &c. may also be made entertaining to Youth, and will be useful to all. And this, with the Accounts in other History of the prodigious Force and Effect of Engines and Machines used in War, will naturally introduce a Desire to be instructed in (* 25) Mechanicks, and to be inform’d of the Principles of that Art by which weak Men perform such Wonders, Labour is sav’d, Manufactures expedited, &c. &c. This will be the Time to show them Prints of antient and modern Machines, to explain them, to let them be (* 26) copied, and to give Lectures in Mechanical Philosophy.

With the whole should be constantly inculcated and cultivated, that Benignity of Mind (* 27), which shows itself in searching for and seizing every Opportunity to serve and to oblige; and is the Foundation of what is called GOOD BREEDING; highly useful to the Possessor, and most agreeable to all (* 28).

The Idea of what is true Merit, should also be often presented to Youth, explain’d and impress’d on their Minds, as consisting in an Inclination join’d with an Ability to serve Mankind, one’s Country, Friends and Family; which Ability is (with the Blessing of God) to be acquir’d or greatly encreas’d by true Learning; and should indeed be the great Aim and (* 29) End of all Learning.

(* 1) As some Things here propos’d may be found to differ a little from the Forms of Education in common Use, the following Quotations are to shew the Opinions of several learned Men, who have carefully considered and wrote expresly on the Subject; such as Milton, Locke, Rollin, Turnbull, and others. They generally complain, that the old Method is in many Respects wrong; but long settled Forms are not easily changed. For us, who are now to make a Beginning, ’tis, at least, as easy to set out right as wrong; and therefore their Sentiments are on this Occasion well worth our Consideration.

Mr. Rollin says (Belles Lett. p. 249. speaking of the Manner of Educating Youth) “Though it be generally a very wise and judicious Rule to avoid all Singularity, and to follow the received Customs, yet I question whether, in the Point we now treat of, this Principle does not admit of some Exception, and whether we ought not to apprehend the Dangers and Inconveniencies of blindly following the Footsteps of those who have gone before us, so as to consult Custom more than Reason, and the governing our Actions rather by what others do, than by what they should do; from whence it often happens, that an Error once established is handed down from Age to Age, and becomes almost a certain Law, from a Notion, that we ought to act like the rest of Mankind, and follow the Example of the greatest Number. But human Nature is not so happy as to have the greatest Number always make the best Choice, and we too frequently observe the contrary.”

(* 2) Rollin, Vol. 2. p. 371. mentions a French Gentleman, Mons. Hersan, who, “at his own Expence, built a School for the Use of poor Children, one of the finest in the Kingdom; and left a Stipend for the Master. That he himself taught them very often, and generally had some of them at his Table. He clothed several of them; and distributed Rewards among them from Time to Time, in order to encourage them to study.”

(* 3) Something seems wanting in America to incite and stimulate Youth to Study. In Europe the Encouragements to Learning are of themselves much greater than can be given here. Whoever distinguishes himself there, in either of the three learned Professions, gains Fame, and often Wealth and Power: A poor Man’s Son has a Chance, if he studies hard, to rise, either in the Law or the Church, to gainful Offices or Benefices; to an extraordinary Pitch of Grandeur; to have a Voice in Parliament, a Seat among the Peers; as a Statesman or first Minister to govern Nations, and even to mix his Blood with Princes.

(* 4) Besides the English Library begun and carried on by Subscription in Philadelphia, we may expect the Benefit of another much more valuable in the Learned Languages, which has been many Years collecting with the greatest Care, by a Gentleman distinguish’d for his universal Knowledge, no less than for his Judgment in Books. It contains many hundred Volumes of the best Authors in the best Editions, among which are the Polyglot Bible, and Castel‘s Lexicon on it, in 8 large Vols. Aldus‘s Septuagint, Apocrypha and New Testament, in Greek, and some other Editions of the same; most of the Fathers; almost all the Greek Authors from Homer himself, in divers Editions (and one of them in that of Rome, with Eustathius’s Commentaries, in 4 Vols.) to near the End of the 4th Century, with divers later, as Photius, Suidas, divers of the Byzantine Historians; all the old Mathematicians, as Archimedes, Apollonius, Euclid, Ptolomy‘s Geography and Almagest, with Theon’s Commentaries and Diophantus, in the whole above 100 Vols. in Greek Folio’s. All the old Roman Classics without Exception, and some of them in several Editions (as all Tully‘s Works in four Editions). All Graevius, Gronovius, Salengre‘s and Poleni‘s Collections of Roman and Greek Antiquities, containing above Five Hundred distinct Discourses in 33 Tomes, with some Hundreds of late Authors in Latin, as Vossius, Lipsius, Grotius, &c. A good Collection of Mathematical Pieces, as Newton in all the three Editions, Wallis, Huygens, Tacquet, Dechales, &c. in near 100 Vols. in all Sizes, with some Orientals, French and Italian Authors, and many more English, &c. A handsome Building above 60 Feet in front, is now erected in this City, at the private Expence of that Gentleman, for the Reception of this Library, where it is soon to be deposited, and remain for the publick Use, with a valuable yearly Income duly to enlarge it; and I have his Permission to mention it as an Encouragement to the propos’d Academy; to which this noble Benefaction will doubtless be of the greatest Advantage, as not only the Students, but even the Masters themselves, may very much improve by it.

(* 5) See in Turnbull, p. 415. the Description of the Furniture of the School called the Instituto at Bologna, procur’d by the Care and Direction of Count Marsigli, and originally at his private Expence.

(* 6) Perhaps it would be best if none of the Scholars were to diet abroad. Milton is of that Opinion (Tractate of Education) for that much Time would else be lost, and many ill Habits got.

(* 7) Milton proposes, that an Hour and Half before Dinner should be allow’d for Exercise, and recommends among other Exercises, the handling of Arms, but perhaps this may not be thought necessary here. Turnbull, p. 318. says, “Corporal Exercise invigorates the Soul as well as the Body; let one be kept closely to Reading, without allowing him any Respite from Thinking, or any Exercise to his Body, and were it possible to preserve long, by such a Method, his Liking to Study and Knowledge, yet we should soon find such an one become no less soft in his Mind than in his outward Man. Both Mind and Body would thus become gradually too relaxed, too much unbraced for the Fatigues and Duties of active Life. Such is the Union between Soul and Body, that the same Exercises which are conducive, when rightly managed, to consolidate or strengthen the former, are likewise equally necessary and fit to produce Courage, Firmness, and manly Vigour, in the latter. For this, and other Reasons, certain hardy Exercises were reckoned by the Antients an essential Part in the Formation of a liberal Character; and ought to have their Place in Schools where Youth are taught the Languages and Sciences.”

(* 8) ‘Tis suppos’d that every Parent would be glad to have their Children skill’d in Swimming, if it might be learnt in a Place chosen for its Safety, and under the Eye of a careful Person. Mr. Locke says, p. 9. in his Treatise of Education; “‘Tis that saves many a Man’s Life; and the Romans thought it so necessary, that they rank’d it with Letters; and it was the common Phrase to mark one ill educated, and good for nothing, that he had neither learnt to read nor to swim; Nec Literas didicit nec Natare. But besides the gaining a Skill which may serve him at Need, the Advantages to Health by often Bathing in cold Water during the Heat of the Summer, are so many, that I think nothing need be said to encourage it.”

‘Tis some Advantage besides, to be free from the slavish Terrors many of those feel who cannot swim, when they are oblig’d to be on the Water even in crossing a Ferry.

Mr. Hutchinson, in his Dialogues concerning Education, 2 Vols. Octavo, lately publish’d, says, Vol. 2. p. 297. “I would have the Youth accustomed to such Exercises as will harden their Constitution, as Riding, Running, Swimming, Shooting, and the like.”

Charlemagne, Founder of the German Empire, brought up his Sons hardily, and even his Daughters were inur’d to Industry. Henry the Great of France, saith Mons. Rhodez, “was not permitted by his Grand-father to be brought up with Delicacy, who well knew that seldom lodgeth other than a mean and feeble Spirit in an effeminate and tender Body. He commanded that the Boy should be accustomed to run, to leap, to climb the Rocks and Mountains; that by such Means he might be inured to Labour, &c. His ordinary Food also was of coarse Bread, Beef, Cheese and Garlick; his Cloathing plain and coarse, and often he went barefoot and bareheaded.” Walker of Education, p. 17, 18.

(* 9) Drawing is a kind of Universal Language, understood by all Nations. A Man may often express his Ideas, even to his own Countrymen, more clearly with a Lead Pencil, or Bit of Chalk, than with his Tongue. And many can understand a Figure, that do not comprehend a Description in Words, tho’ ever so properly chosen. All Boys have an early Inclination to this Improvement, and begin to make Figures of Animals, Ships, Machines, &c. as soon as they can use a Pen: But for want of a little Instruction at that Time, generally are discouraged, and quit the Pursuit.