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Ideas and Ideals: Beginnings

“…nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue.” — Benjamin Franklin, 1750


«  Virtuous Education  »


W

hile early Dutch and Swedish settlers in the Delaware Valley maintained some church-run schools, the founding of Pennsylvania marks the beginning of plans for the education of a collective “public.” In the 1682 Frame of Government, William Penn called for a “virtuous education of youth” in the colony. Franklin’s connection between the education of youth and “virtue” in his own writing echoes Penn’s: education, they and others argued, had the power to shape morality and produce a citizenry devoted to the public good. Quaker Enoch Flower was hired by the Provincial Council to start a school in 1683 but died a year later; 1689, the opening the Friends Public School, marks the beginning of continuous Quaker schooling in Philadelphia.

German settlers showed a similar concern for education. Francis Daniel Pastorius taught at the Quaker school and later at a school in Germantown established in 1701. Although Pastorius had received a traditional Latin-based education in Germany, he had a Franklin-like distaste for scholasticism and emphasized practical skills in his teaching. On display here is a manuscript book he used to teach writing and legal matters to young clerks. In the 1720s, Christopher Dock, a Mennonite, began his long teaching career in Skippack, Montgomery County. So famous was Dock that printer Christopher Saur commissioned his Schul-ordnung (School Rules, 1770) as a model for others. Dock’s rules stressed rewards for good student behavior, a nurturing school environment, and the benefits of peer learning.

Although Quaker schools were open to students of all faiths, other early educational efforts, like those of the Mennonites, were linked with particular religious denominations. Among the most active were the Presbyterians. Reverend William Tennent’s school in Bucks County, founded in 1726 and nicknamed the “Log College,” trained many prominent colonial ministers, a number of whom would end up at the College of New Jersey (Princeton). Although many schoolmasters and schoolmistresses in colonial Pennsylvania were paid poorly and changed posts frequently, the careers of Pastorius, Dock, and Tennent suggest that some teachers became influential colonial figures.




«  Printing and Teaching  »


A

s a printer, Franklin capitalized on the demand for catechisms, question-and-answer books of doctrine used by many denominations in school settings. He issued both the popular English Dissenter Isaac Watts’s catechism which warned against the “sins and follies of childhood and youth” and a Reformed (Calvinist) catechism intended for the colony’s growing German population.

By 1735, Theophilus Grew, the calculator of the tables for Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac and later Mathematical Professor at the Academy of Philadelphia, was running his own school, which Franklin advertised in the Almanac. Grew taught practical skills—reading, writing, accounts, surveying, navigation—which Franklin would later praise.



«  Women’s Schooling: Early Evidence  »


A

1723 advertisement from the American Weekly Mercury provides early evidence of a school for women in Philadelphia. The copybook of Quaker Grace Hoopes (ca. 1715) demonstrates that girls as well as boys learned basic and perhaps even advanced mathematics.



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Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania