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SUME THOUGHTS ON EDUCATION.
BY JOHN LOCKE.
DEDICATION TO EDWARD CLARKE, OF CHIPLEY. Sir,—These Thoughts concerning Education, which now come abroad into the world, do of right belong to you, being written several years since for your sake, and are no other than what you have already by you in my letters. I have so little varied any thing, but only the order of what was sent you at different times, and on several occasions, that the reader will easily find, in the familiarity and fashion of the style, that they were rather the private conversation of two friends than a discourse designed for public view.
The importunity of friends is the common apology for publications men are afraid to own themselves forward to. But you know I can truly say, that if some who having heard of these papers of mine, had not pressed to see them, and afterward to have them printed, they had lain dormant still in that privacy they were designed for. But those whose judgment I defer much to, telling me, that they were persuaded, that this rough draught of mine might be of some use, if made more public, touched upon what will always be very prevalent with me. For I think it every man's indispensable duty, to do all the service he can to his country; and I see not what difference he puts between himself and his cattle, who lives without that thought. This subject is of so great concernment, and a right way of education is of so general advantage, that did I find my abilities answer my wishes, I should not have needed exhortations or importunities from others. However, the meanness of these papers, and my just distrust of them, shall not keep me, by the shame of doing so little, from contributing my mite, where there is no more required of me than my throwing it into the public receptacle. And if there be any more of their size and notions, who liked them so well that they thought them worth printing, I may flatter myself they will not be lost labor to every body.
I myself have been consulted of late by so many, who profess themselves at a loss how to breed their children, and the early corruption of youth is now become so general a complaint, that he can not be thought wholly impertinent who brings the consideration of this matter on the stage, and offers something, if it be but to excite others, or afford matter of correction. For errors in education should be less indulged than any; these, like faults in the first concoction, that are never mended in the second or third, carry their afterward-incorrigible taint with them through all the parts and stations of life.
I am so far from being conceited of any thing I have here offered, that I should not be sorry, even for your sake, if some one abler and fitter for such a task would, in a just treatise of education, suited to our English gentry, rectify the mistakes I have made in this; it being much more desirable to me, that young gentlemen should be put into (that which every one onght to be solicitons about,) the best way of being formed and instructed, than that my opinion should be received concerning it. You will, however, in the meantime bear me witness, that the method here proposed has had no ordinary effects upon a gentleman's son it was not designed for. I will not say the good temper of the child did not very much contribute to it, but this I think you and the parents are satisfied of, that a contrary usage, according to the ordinary disciplining of children, would not have mended that temper, nor have brought him to be in love with his book:
to take a pleasure in learning, and to desire, as he does, to be taught more than those about him think fit always to teach him.
But my business is not to recommend this treatise to you, whose opinion of it I know already; nor it to the world, either by your opinion or patronage. The well educating of their children is so much the duty and concern of parents, and the welfare and prosperity of the nation so much depends on it, that I would have every one lay it seriously to heart; and, after having well examined and distinguished what fancy, custom, or reason advises in the case, set his helping hand to promote every where that way of training up youth, with regard to their several conditions, which is the easiest, shortest, and likeliest to produce virtuons, useful, and able men in their distinct callings; though that most to be taken care of is the gentleman's calling. For if those of that rank are by their education once set right, they will quickly bring all the rest into order.
I know not whether I have done more tharr shown my good wishes toward it in this short discourse; such as it is, the world now has it; and if there be any thing in it worth their acceptance, they owe their thanks to you for it. My affection to you gave the first rise to it, and I am pleased, that I can leave to posterity this mark of the friendship has been between us. For I know no greater pleasure in this life, nor a better remembrance to be left behind one, than a long continued friendship, with an honest, useful, and worthy man, and lover of his country.
I am, Sir,
And most faithful servant,
John LOCKE. EDUCATION IN GENERAL. 1. A sound mind in a sound body, is a short but full description of a happy state in this world: he that has these two, has little more to wish for; and he that wants either of them, will be but little the better for any thing else. Men's happiness or misery is most part of their own making. He whose mind directs not wisely, will never take the right way; and he whose body is vrazy and feeble, will never be able to advance in it. I confess, there are some men's constitutions of body and mind so vigorous, and well-framed by nature, that they need not much assistance from others; but, by the strength of their natural genius, they are, from their cradles, carried toward what is excellent; and, by the privilege of their happy constitutions, are able to do wonders. But examples of this kind are but few; and I think I may say, that, of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education. It is that which makes the great difference in mankind. The little, or almost insensible, impressions on our tender infancies, have very important and lasting consequences: and there it is, as in the fountains of some rivers where a gentle application of the hand turns the flexible waters into channels, that make them take quite contrary courses; and by this little direction, given them at first, in the source, they receive different tendencies, and arrive at last at very remote and distant places.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION. HEALTH. 2. I imagine the minds of children as easily turned, this or that way, as water itself; and though this be the principal part, and our main care should be about the inside, yet the clay cottage is not to be neglected. I shall therefore begin with the case, and consider first the health of the body, as that which perhaps you may rather expect, from that study I have been thought more peculiarly to have applied myself to; and that also which will be soonest dispatched, as lying, if I guess not amiss, in a very little compass.
3. How necessary health is to our business and happiness, and how requisite a strong constitution, able to endure hardships and fatigue, is to one that will make any figure in the world, is too obvious to need any proof.
4. The consideration I shall here have, of health, shall be, not what a physi. cian ought to do, with a sick or crazy child; but what the parents, without the help of physic, should do for the preservation and improvement of an healthy, or, at least, not sickly constitution, in their children: and this perhaps might be all despatched in this one short rule, viz., that gentlemen should use their children as the honest farmers and substantial yeomen do theirs. But because the mothers, possibly, may think this a little too hard, and the fathers, too short, I shall explain myself more particularly; only laying down this, as a general and certain observation for the women to consider, viz., that most children's constitutions are either spoiled, or at least harmed, by cockering and tenderness.
5. The first thing to be taken care of is, that children be not too warmly clad or covered, winter or summer. The face, when we are born, is no less tender than any other part of the body; it is use alone hardens it, and makes it moro able to endure the cold. And therefore the Scythian philosopher gave a very significant answer to the Athenian, who wondered how he could go naked in frost and snow: “How," said the Scythian, “can you endure your face exposed to the sharp winter air ?" "My face is used to it," said the Athenian. “Think me all face," replied the Scythian. Our bodies will endure any thing that from the beginning they are accustomed to.
An eminent instance of this, though in the contrary excess of heat, being to our present purpose, to show what use can do, I shall set down in the author's words, as I met with it in a late ingenious voyage:* "The heats," says he, “are more violent in Malta than in any part of Europe: they exceed those of Rome itself, and are perfectly stifling; and so much the more, because there are seldom any cooling breezes here. This makes the common people as black as gypsies: but yet the peasants defy the sun: they work on in the hottest part of the day, without intermission, or sheltering themselves from his scorching rays. This has convinced me that nature can bring itself to many things which seem impossible, provided we accustom ourselves from our infancy. The Mal-, tese do so, who harden the bodies of their children, and reconcile them to the heat, by making them go stark naked, without shirt, drawers, or any thing on their head, from their cradles, till they are ten years old."
Give me leave, therefore, to advise you not to fence too carefully against the cold of this our climate: there are those in England, who wear the same clothes winter and summer, and that without any inconvenience, or more sense of cold than others find. But if the mother will needs have an allowance for frost and snow, for fear of harm, and the father, for fear of censure, be sure let not his winter-clothing be too warm; and amongst other things remember, that when nature has so well covered his head with hair, and strengthened it with a year or two's age, that he can run about by day, without a cap, it is best that by night a child should also lie without one; there being nothing that more ex
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