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Off the top

A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Benjamin Franklin's education

He entered grammar school at age eight, left to attend a "school for writing and arithmetic" at age nine, went to work in his father’s tallow-chandlery at age ten, and was apprenticed at age twelve to his brother James, a printer.

So...with little formal education, just how did Ben Franklin accomplish so much?

From his autobiography:
My early readiness in learning to read (which must have been very early, as I do not remember when I could not read)...

From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books.

Of his father, he wrote:
At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life

On the pursuit of knowledge and writing:
There was another bookish lad in the town [Boston], John Collins by name, with whom I was intimately acquainted. We sometimes disputed, and very fond we were of argument, and very desirous of confuting one another...A question was once, somehow or other, started between Collins and me...As we parted without settling the point, and were not to see one another again for some time, I sat down to put my arguments in writing, which I copied fair and sent to him. He answered, and I replied. Three or four letters of a side had passed, when my father happened to find my papers and read them.

His father critiqued his writing:
Without entering into the discussion, he took occasion to talk to me about the manner of my writing; observed that, though I had the advantage of my antagonist in correct spelling and pointing (which I ow'd to the printing-house), I fell far short in elegance of expression, in method and in perspicuity, of which he convinced me by several instances. I saw the justice of his remark, and thence grew more attentive to the manner in writing, and determined to endeavor at improvement.(emphasis added)

He did so by reading good writing and then seeking to imitate it via various exercises. Judging that on occasion he actually bettered it
encouraged me to think I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable English writer, of which I was extremely ambitious.(emphasis added)

Apprenticeship no doubt offered much in the way of education also. I guess we call it “mentoring” today, or “climbing the professional ladder.”

Franklin wrote of his faith in God (regardless of questionable theology or moral flaws he may have had):

And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all humility to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past life to His kind providence, which lead me to the means I used and gave them success. My belief of this induces me to hope, though I must not presume, that the same goodness will still be exercised toward me, in continuing that happiness, or enabling me to bear a fatal reverse, which I may experience as others have done: the complexion of my future fortune being known to Him only in whose power it is to bless to us even our afflictions.


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