Study Guide

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Education

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For Benjamin Franklin, education isn't something you have to do – it's something you want to do. Think of it as a privilege, not a right: desired rather than dreaded. Franklin, who can't get enough of knowledge and is constantly trying to acquire it, sees education as an active, ongoing vocation rather than a passive, limited training ground. He experiments with science, shares his ideas with philosophers, contributes to literature, and shapes public policy. As we see in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, mastering one foreign language is just an excuse to learn another, while reading the latest literature is worth losing all his sleep over.

Questions About Education

  1. Do you think if Franklin had gotten to stay in school, he would have grown up into the same kind of passionate reader and scholar that he became as a self-educated man?
  2. If you could add anything to Franklin's curriculum, what would it be? What else do you think he should've studied?
  3. Say you were founding your own university. What kinds of classes would be taught there, in what kinds of fields? What would your mission statement be, and what would you hope to accomplish with your school?

Chew on This

As a whole, Franklin's Autobiography is proof that his ideas about educational reform, including his advocating for public library and university access, work extremely well and should be widely adopted.

Franklin's narrative shows that access to education, specifically reading, is what has made and will continue to make America a great country, and that this proactive attitude towards learning has just as much effect as a strong military presence in bringing the nation forward as a dominant player on the world stage.

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