As I mentioned in another entry below, I’ve been listening to biographies of the Founding Fathers lately. Inspired by my current one, on John Adams, I picked up William Bennett’s Our Sacred Honor at the library. Thumbing through the section on the Founders’ views on education, I came across the following list of study topics written by John Quincy Adams to his father, John Adams. Then but twelve years old, here is what John Quincy was studying:
+ Latin composition
+ Explaining Cicero
+ Explaining Erasmus
+ Explaining the Appendix on the Pagan gods and Heroes
+ Working on the Phaedrus (a collection of Latin fables)
+ Greek grammar
Duly impressed by this list of his son’s intellectual activities, John Adams nevertheless urged his son to practice better penmanship in his letters to his father. He also advised him to spend less time on geography, geometry, and fractions, because although those were important and useful sciences in their own right, “the most satisfactory of al human Knowledge” was to be found in the Greek and Latin tongues. In closing, John expressed a wish that his twelve year old son would find time for Virgil’s poetry and Cicero’s orations (in Latin, of course), or Ovid, or Horace, or better yet, all of them.
It is absolutely mind-boggling how far education has fallen since John Adams’ day.