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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

Education Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

[I recommend] that Branch of Education for our young Females, as likely to be of more Use to them and their Children in Case of Widowhood than either Music or Dancing, by preserving them from Losses by Imposition of crafty Men, and enabling them to continue perhaps a profitable mercantile House with establish'd Correspondence till a Son is grown up fit to undertake and go on with it, to the lasting Advantage and enriching of the Family. (3.8)

This is one of the few times in the Autobiography that Franklin gets into issues of gender. Even though he kind of ruins things at the end here by saying that the ultimate goal of female education is to pass business on to another man, we're going to run with what he says in the middle. That is, women should be educated in literature and arithmetic, like men, and learn about practical things that can serve them well in the business world. They shouldn't focus only decorative things like music because, in the (for this society) unlikely event they have to fend for themselves, they won't be able to cope with business unless they've been well educated. The next step, we'd like to tell Franklin, is to let women into that university of yours you've been organizing.

Quote #8

But when I had attained an Acquaintance with the French, Italian and Spanish, I was surpris'd to find, on looking over a Latin Testament, that I understood so much more of that Language than I had imagined; which encouraged me to apply myself again to the Study of it, and I met with the more Success, as those preceding Languages had greatly smooth'd my Way. (3.12)

Believe it or not, this is revolutionary education at work. People used to have to learn Latin first, even though it's so darn difficult, before they could learn other, comparatively easier languages. Franklin offers a theory, complete with his own experience as evidence, that it's actually easier to start with simpler, building-block languages, and work your way up to the more difficult ones. (However, Franklin's such a smarty-pants, and so committed to his own education, that he doesn't really make the best "ordinary" example for his theory.)

Quote #9

The Trustees of the Academy after a while were incorporated by a Charter from the Governor; their Funds were increas'd by Contributions in Britain, and Grants of Land from the Proprietaries, to which the Assembly has since made considerable Addition, and thus was established the present University of Philadelphia. (3.48)

That's right, founding a university is just that easy. Seriously, though, while Franklin makes the process sound simple and straightforward, we shouldn't let that take away from the importance of what he's doing here. His little idea that Pennsylvania needed an institution of higher learning has taken on a life of its own, receiving government support in America and Britain, gifts of land and money, and continued assistance from the Assembly. It's amazing to watch the construction of an institution that we now take for granted as prestigious and extremely well-established, and to think that, without Franklin, it wouldn't be here at all.

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