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Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania

Mr. Locke says, p. 234. “When your Son can write well and quick, I think it may be convenient not only to continue the Exercise of his Hand in Writing, but also to improve the Use of it further in Drawing; a Thing very useful to a Gentleman on several Occasions; but especially if he travel; as that which helps a Man often to express in a few Lines well put together, what a whole Sheet of Paper in Writing would not be able to represent and make intelligible. How many Buildings may a Man see, how many Machines and Habits meet with, the Ideas whereof would be easily retain’d, and communicated by a little Skill in Drawing; which being committed to Words, are in Danger to be lost, or at best but ill retained in the most exact Descriptions? I do not mean that I would have him a perfect Painter; to be that to any tolerable Degree, will require more Time than he can spare from his other Improvements of greater Moment. But so much Insight into Perspective and Skill in Drawing, as will enable him to represent tolerably on Paper any Thing he sees, except Faces, may, I think, be got in a little Time.”

Drawing is no less useful to a Mechanic than to a Gentleman. Several Handicrafts seem to require it; as the Carpenter’s, Shipwright’s, Engraver’s, Painter’s, Carver’s, Cabinet-maker’s, Gardiner’s, and other Businesses. By a little Skill of this kind, the Workman may perfect his own Idea of the Thing to be done, before he begins to work; and show a Draft for the Encouragement and Satisfaction of his Employer.

(* 10) Mr. Locke is of Opinion, p. 269. that a Child should be early enter’d in Arithmetick, Geography, Chronology, History and Geometry. “Merchants Accounts, he says, if it is not necessary to help a Gentleman to get an Estate, yet there is nothing of more Use and Efficacy to make him preserve the Estate he has. ‘Tis seldom observ’d that he who keeps an Account of his Income and Expences, and thereby has constantly under View the Course of his Domestic Affairs, lets them run to Ruin: And I doubt not but many a Man gets behind-hand before he is aware, or runs farther on when he is once in, for want of this Care, or the Skill to do it. I would therefore advise all Gentlemen to learn perfectly Merchants Accounts; and not to think ’tis a Skill that belongs not to them, because it has received its Name, and has been chiefly practis’d by Men of Traffick.” p. 316.

Not only the Skill, but the Habit of keeping Accounts, should be acquir’d by all, as being necessary to all.

(* 11) Mr. Locke, speaking of Grammar, p. 252. says, “That to those the greatest Part of whose Business in this World is to be done with their Tongues, and with their Pens, it is convenient, if not necessary, that they should speak properly and correctly, whereby they may let their Thoughts into other Mens Minds the more easily, and with the greater Impression. Upon this Account it is, that any sort of Speaking, so as will make him be understood, is not thought enough for a Gentleman. He ought to study Grammar, among the other Helps of Speaking well, but it must be THE GRAMMAR OF HIS OWN TONGUE, of the Language he uses, that he may understand his own Country Speech nicely, and speak it properly, without shocking the Ears of those it is addressed to with Solecisms and offensive Irregularities. And to this Purpose Grammar is necessary; but it is the Grammar only of their own proper Tongues, and to those who would take Pains in cultivating their Language, and perfecting their Stiles. Whether all Gentlemen should not do this, I leave to be considered, since the Want of Propriety and Grammatical Exactness is thought very misbecoming one of that Rank, and usually draws on one guilty of such Faults, the Imputation of having had a lower Breeding and worse Company than suits with his Quality. If this be so (as I suppose it is) it will be Matter of Wonder, why young Gentlemen are forc’d to learn the Grammars of foreign and dead Languages, and are never once told of the Grammar of their own Tongues. They do not so much as know there is any such Thing, much less is it made their Business to be instructed in it. Nor is their own Language ever propos’d to them as worthy their Care and Cultivating, tho’ they have daily Use of it, and are not seldom, in the future Course of their Lives, judg’d of by their handsome or awkward Way of expressing themselves in it. Whereas the Languages whose Grammars they have been so much employed in, are such as probably they shall scarce ever speak or write; or if upon Occasion this should happen, they should be excused for the Mistakes and Faults they make in it. Would not a Chinese, who took Notice of this Way of Breeding, be apt to imagine, that all our young Gentlemen were designed to be Teachers and Professors of the dead Languages of foreign Countries, and not to be Men of Business in their own.” Page 255. the same Author adds, “That if Grammar ought to be taught at any Time, it must be to one that can speak the Language already; how else can he be taught the Grammar of it? This at least is evident from the Practice of the wise and learned Nations among the Antients. They made it a Part of Education to cultivate their own, not foreign Tongues. The Greeks counted all other Nations barbarous, and had a Contempt for their Languages. And though the Greek Learning grew in Credit amongst the Romans towards the End of their Commonwealth, yet it was the Roman Tongue that was made the Study of their Youth: Their own Language they were to make Use of, and therefore it was their own Language they were instructed and exercised in.” And p. 281. “There can scarce be a greater Defect (says he) in a Gentleman, than not to express himself well either in Writing or Speaking. But yet I think I may ask the Reader, whether he doth not know a great many, who live upon their Estates, and so, with the Name, should have the Qualities of Gentlemen, who cannot so much as tell a Story as they should, much less speak clearly and persuasively in any Business. This I think not to be so much their Fault as the Fault of their Education.” Thus far Locke.

Mons. Rollin, reckons the Neglect of Teaching their own Tongue a great Fault in the French Universities. He spends great Part of his first Vol. of Belles Lettres, on that Subject; and lays down some excellent Rules or Methods of Teaching French to Frenchmen grammatically, and making them Masters therein, which are very applicable to our Language, but too long to be inserted here. He practis’d them on the Youth under his Care with great Success.

Mr. Hutchinson, Dial. p. 297. says, “To perfect them in the Knowledge of their Mother Tongue, they should learn it in the Grammatical Way, that they may not only speak it purely, but be able both to correct their own Idiom, and afterwards enrich the Language on the same Foundation.”

Dr. Turnbull, in his Observations on a liberal Education, says, p. 262. “The Greeks, perhaps, made more early Advances in the most useful Sciences than any Youth have done since, chiefly on this Account, that they studied no other Language but their own. This no Doubt saved them very much Time; but they applied themselves carefully to the Study of their own Language, and were early able to speak and write it in the greatest Perfection. The Roman Youth, though they learned the Greek, did not neglect their own Tongue, but studied it more carefully than we now do Greek and Latin, without giving ourselves any Trouble about our own Tongue.”

Mons. Simon, in an elegant Discourse of his among the Memoirs of the Academy of Belles Lettres at Paris, speaking of the Stress the Romans laid on Purity of Language and graceful Pronunciation, adds, “May I here make a Reflection on the Education we commonly give our Children? It is very remote from the Precepts I have mentioned. Hath the Child arrived to six or seven Years of Age, he mixes with a Herd of ill-bred Boys at School, where under the Pretext of Teaching him Latin, no Regard is had to his Mother Tongue. And what happens? What we see every Day. A young Gentleman of eighteen, who has had this Education, CANNOT READ. For to articulate the Words, and join them together, I do not call Reading, unless one can pronounce well, observe all the proper Stops, vary the Voice, express the Sentiments, and read with a delicate Intelligence. Nor can he speak a Jot better. A Proof of this is, that he cannot write ten Lines without committing gross Faults; and because he did not learn his own Language well in his early Years, he will never know it well. I except a few, who being afterwards engaged by their Profession, or their natural Taste, cultivate their Minds by Study. And yet even they, if they attempt to write, will find by the Labour Composition costs them, what a Loss it is, not to have learned their Language in the proper Season. Education among the Romans was upon a quite different Footing. Masters of Rhetoric taught them early the Principles, the Difficulties, the Beauties, the Subtleties, the Depths, the Riches of their own Language. When they went from these Schools, they were perfect Masters of it, they were never at a Loss for proper Expressions; and I am much deceived if it was not owing to this, that they produced such excellent Works with so marvellous Facility.”

Pliny, in his Letter to a Lady on chusing a Tutor for her Son, speaks of it as the most material Thing in his Education, that he should have a good Latin Master of Rhetoric, and recommends Julius Genitor for his eloquent, open and plain Faculty of Speaking. He does not advise her to a Greek Master of Rhetoric, tho’ the Greeks were famous for that Science; but to a Latin Master, because Latin was the Boy’s Mother Tongue. In the above Quotation from Mons. Simon, we see what was the Office and Duty of the Master of Rhetoric.

(* 12) This Mr. Locke recommends, Educ. p. 284. and says, “The Writing of Letters has so much to do in all the Occurrences of human Life, that no Gentleman can avoid shewing himself in this Kind of Writing. Occasions will daily force him to make this Use of his Pen, which, besides the Consequences that, in his Affairs, the well or ill managing it often draws after it, always lays him open to a severer Examination of his Breeding, Sense and Abilities, than oral Discourses, whose transient Faults dying for the most Part with the Sound that gives them Life, and so not subject to a strict Review, more easily escape Observation and Censure.” He adds,

“Had the Methods of Education been directed to their right End, one would have thought this so necessary a Part could not have been neglected, whilst Themes and Verses in Latin, of no Use at all, were so constantly every where pressed, to the Racking of Childrens Inventions beyond their Strength, and hindring their chearful Progress by unnatural Difficulties. But Custom has so ordained it, and who dares disobey? And would it not be very unreasonable to require of a learned Country Schoolmaster (who has all the Tropes and Figures in Farnaby‘s Rhetorick at his Finger’s Ends) to teach his Scholar to express himself handsomely in English, when it appears to be so little his Business or Thought, that the Boy’s Mother (despised, ’tis like, as illiterate for not having read a System of Logic or Rhetoric) outdoes him in it?

“To speak and write correctly, gives a Grace, and gains a favourable Attention to what one has to say: And since ’tis English that an Englishman will have constant Use of, that is the Language he should chiefly cultivate, and wherein most Care should be taken to polish and perfect his Stile. To speak or write better Latin than English, may make a Man be talk’d of, but he will find it more to his Purpose to express himself well in his own Tongue, that he uses every Moment, than to have the vain Commendation of others for a very insignificant Quality. This I find universally neglected, nor no Care taken any where to improve young Men in their own Language, that they may thoroughly understand and be Masters of it. If any one among us have a Facility or Purity more than ordinary in his Mother Tongue, it is owing to Chance, or his Genius, or any Thing, rather than to his Education, or any Care of his Teacher. To mind what English his Pupil speaks or writes, is below the Dignity of one bred up among Greek and Latin, tho’ he have but little of them himself. These are the Learned Languages, fit only for Learned Men to meddle with and teach: English is the Language of the illiterate Vulgar. Though the Great Men among the Romans were daily exercising themselves in their own Language; and we find yet upon Record the Names of Orators who taught some of their Emperors Latin, tho’ it were their Mother Tongue. ‘Tis plain the Greeks were yet more nice in theirs. All other Speech was barbarous to them but their own, and no foreign Language appears to have been studied or valued amongst that learned and acute People; tho’ it be past Doubt, that they borrowed their Learning and Philosophy from abroad.

“I am not here speaking against Greek and Latin. I think Latin at least ought to be well understood by every Gentleman. But whatever foreign Languages a young Man meddles with, that which he should critically study, and labour to get a Facility, Clearness and Elegancy to express himself in, should be his own; and to this Purpose he should daily be EXERCISED in it.”

To the same Purpose writes a Person of eminent Learning in a Letter to Dr. Turnbull: “Nothing certainly (says he) can be of more Service to Mankind than a right Method of Educating the Youth, and I should be glad to hear —— —— to give an Example of the great Advantage it would be to the rising Age, and to our Nation. When our publick Schools were first establish’d, the Knowledge of Latin was thought Learning; and he that had a tolerable Skill in two or three Languages, tho’ his Mind was not enlightened by any real Knowledge, was a profound Scholar. But it is not so at present; and People confess, that Men may have obtained a Perfection in these, and yet continue deeply ignorant. The Greek Education was of another Kind [which he describes in several Particulars, and adds] They studied to write their own Tongue more accurately than we do Latin and Greek. But where is English taught at present? Who thinks it of Use to study correctly that Language which he is to use every Day in his Life, be his Station ever so high, or ever so insignificant. It is in this the Nobility and Gentry defend their Country, and serve their Prince in Parliament; in this the Lawyers plead, the Divines instruct, and all Ranks of People write their Letters, and transact all their Affairs; and yet who thinks it worth his learning to write this even accurately, not to say politely? Every one is suffer’d to form his Stile by Chance; to imitate the first wretched Model which falls in his Way, before he knows what is faulty, or can relish the Beauties of a just Simplicity. Few think their Children qualified for a Trade till they have been whipt at a Latin School for five or six Years, to learn a little of that which they are oblig’d to forget; when in those Years right Education would have improv’d their Minds, and taught them to acquire Habits of Writing their own Language easily under right Direction; and this would have been useful to them as long as they lived.” Introd. p. 3, 4, 5.

Since Mr. Locke‘s Time, several good Grammars have been wrote and publish’d for the Use of Schools; as Brightland‘s, Greenwood’s, &c.;

(* 13) By Pronunciation is here meant, the proper Modulation of the Voice, to suit the Subject with due Emphasis, Action, &c. In delivering a Discourse in Publick, design’d to persuade, the Manner, perhaps, contributes more to Success, than either the Matter or Method. Yet the two latter seem to engross the Attention of most Preachers and other Publick Speakers, and the former to be almost totally neglected.

(* 14) As nothing teaches (saith Mr. Locke) so nothing delights more than HISTORY. The first of these recommends it to the Study of grown Men, the latter makes me think it the fittest for a young Lad, who as soon as he is instructed in Chronology, and acquainted with the several Epochas in Use in this Part of the World, and can reduce them to the Julian Period, should then have some History put into his Hand. Educ. p. 276.