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John Locke (1632–1704). Some Thoughts Concerning Education.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Some Thoughts Concerning Education

Sections 91–100

§ 91. The consideration of charge ought not therefore to deter those who are able. The great difficulty will be where to find a proper person: for those of small age, parts, and virtue, are unfit for this employment, and those that have greater, will hardly be got to undertake such a charge. You must therefore look out early, and enquire every where; for the world has people of all sorts. And I remember, Montaigne says in one of his essays, that the learned Castalio was fain to make trenchers at Basle, to keep himself from starving, when his father would have given any money for such a tutor for his son, and Castalio have willingly embrac’d such an employment upon very reasonable terms; but this was for want of intelligence.

§ 92. If you find it difficult to meet with such a tutor as we desire, you are not to wonder. I only can say, spare no care nor cost to get such an one. All things are to be had that way: and I dare assure you, that if you can get a good one, you will never repent the charge; but will always have the satisfaction to think it the money of all other the best laid out. But be sure take no body upon friends, or charity, no, nor upon great commendations. Nay, if you will do as you ought, the reputation of a sober man, with a good stock of learning, (which is all usually requir’d in a tutor) will not be enough to serve your turn. In this choice be as curious as you would be in that of a wife for him; for you must not think of trial or changing afterwards: This will cause great inconvenience to you, and greater to your son. When I consider the scruples and cautions I here lay in your way, methinks it looks as if I advis’d you to something which I would have offer’d at, but in effect not done. But he that shall consider how much the business of a tutor, rightly employ’d, lies out of the road, and how remote it is from the thoughts of many, even of those who propose to themselves this employment, will perhaps be of my mind, that one fit to educate and form the mind of a young gentleman is not everywhere to be found, and that more than ordinary care is to be taken in the choice of him, or else you may fail of your end.

§ 93. The character of a sober man and a scholar is, as I have above observ’d, what every one expects in a tutor. This generally is thought enough, and is all that parents commonly look for: But when such an one has empty’d out into his pupil all the Latin and logick he has brought from the university, will that furniture make him a fine gentleman? Or can it be expected, that he should be better bred, better skill’d in the world, better principled in the grounds and foundations of true virtue and generosity, than his young tutor is?

To form a young gentleman as he should be, ’tis fit his governor should himself be well-bred, understanding the ways of carriage and measures of civility in all the variety of persons, times, and places; and keep his pupil, as much as his age requires, constantly to the observation of them. This is an art not lo be learnt nor taught by books. Nothing can give it but good company and observation join’d together. The taylor may make his clothes modish, and the dancing-master give fashion to his motions; yet neither of these, tho’ they set off well, make a well-bred gentleman: no, tho’ he have learning to boot, which, if not well manag’d, makes him more impertinent and intolerable in conversation. Breeding is that which sets a gloss upon all his other good qualities, and renders them useful to him, in procuring him the esteem and good-will of all that he comes near. Without good breeding his other accomplishments make him pass but for proud, conceited, vain, or foolish.

Courage in an ill-bred man has the air and escapes not the opinion of brutality: Learning becomes pedantry; wit, buffoonery; plainness, rusticity; good nature, fawning. And there cannot be a good quality in him, which want of breeding will not warp and disfigure to his disadvantage. Nay, virtue and parts, though they are allow’d their due commendation, yet are not enough to procure a man a good reception, and make him welcome wherever he comes. No body contents himself with rough diamonds, and wears them so, who would appear with advantage. When they are polish’d and set, then they give a lustre. Good qualities are the substantial riches of the mind, but ’tis good breeding sets them off: and he that will be acceptable, must give beauty, as well as strength, to his actions. Solidity, or even usefulness, is not enough: a graceful way and fashion in every thing, is that which gives the ornament and liking. And in most cases, the manner of doing is of more consequence than the thing done; and upon that depends the satisfaction or disgust wherewith it is receiv’d. This therefore, which lies not in the putting off the hat, nor making of compliments, but in a due and free composure of language, looks, motion, posture, place, &c. suited to persons and occasions, and can be learn’d only by habit and use, though it be above the capacity of children, and little ones should not be perplex’d about it, yet it ought to be begun and in a good measure learn’d by a young gentleman whilst he is under a tutor, before he comes into the world upon his own legs: for then usually it is too late to hope to reform several habitual indecencies, which lie in little things. For the carriage is not as it should be, till it is become natural in every part, falling, as skilful musicians’ fingers do, into harmonious order without care and without thought. If in conversation a man’s mind be taken up with a solicitous watchfulness about any part of his behaviour; instead of being mended by it, it will be constrain’d, uneasy, and ungraceful.

Besides, this part is most necessary to be form’d by the hand and care of a governor, because, though the errors committed in breeding are the first that are taken notice of by others, yet they are the last that any one is told of; not but that the malice of the world is forward enough to tattle of them; but it is always out of his hearing, who should make profit of their judgment and reform himself by their censure. And indeed, this is so nice a point to be meddled with, that even those who are friends, and wish it were mended, scarce ever dare mention it, and tell those they love that they are guilty in such or such cases of ill breeding. Errors in other things may often with civility be shewn another; and ’tis no breach of good manners or friendship to set him right in other mistakes; but good breeding itself allows not a man to touch upon this, or to insinuate to another that he is guilty of want of breeding. Such information can come only from those who have authority over them; and from them too it comes very hardly and harshly to a grown man; and however soften’d, goes but ill down with any one who has liv’d ever so little in the world. Wherefore it is necessary that this part should be the governor’s principal care, that an habitual gracefulness, and politeness in all his carriage, may be settled in his charge, as much as may be, before he goes out of his hands; and that he may not need advice in this point when he has neither time nor disposition to receive it, nor has any body left to give it him. The tutor therefore ought in the first place to be well-bred: and a young gentleman, who gets this one qualification from his governor, sets out with great advantage, and will find that this one accomplishment will more open his way to him, get him more friends, and carry him farther in the world, than all the hard words or real knowledge he has got from the liberal arts, or his tutor’s learned encyclopaedia: not that those should be neglected, but by no means preferr’d, or suffer’d to thrust out the other.

§ 94. Besides being well-bred, the tutor should know the world well; the ways, the humours, the follies, the cheats, the faults of the age he is fallen into, and particularly of the country he lives in. These he should be able to shew to his pupil, as he finds him capable; teach him skill in men, and their manners; pull off the mask which their several callings and pretences cover them with, and make his pupil discern what lies at the bottom under such appearances, that he may not, as unexperienc’d young men are apt to do if they are unwarn’d, take one thing for another, judge by the outside, and give himself up to shew, and the insinuation of a fair carriage, or an obliging application. A governor should teach his scholar to guess at and beware of the designs of men he hath to do with, neither with too much suspicion, nor too much confidence; but as the young man is by nature most inclin’d to either side, rectify him, and bend him the other way. He should accustom him to make, as much as is possible, a true judgment of men by those marks which serve best to shew what they are, and give a prospect into their inside, which often shows itself in little things, especially when they are not in parade, and upon their guard. He should acquaint him with the true state of the world, and dispose him to think no man better or worse, wiser or foolisher, than he really is. Thus, by safe and insensible degrees, he will pass from a boy to a man; which is the most hazardous step in all the whole course of life. This therefore should be carefully watch’d, and a young man with great diligence handed over it; and not as now usually is done, be taken from a governor’s conduct, and all at once thrown into the world under his own, not without manifest dangers of immediate spoiling; there being nothing more frequent than instances of the great looseness, extravagancy, and debauchery, which young men have run into as soon as they have been let loose from a severe and strict education: Which I think may be chiefly imputed to their wrong way of breeding, especially in this part; for having been bred up in a great ignorance of what the world truly is, and finding it a quite other thing, when they come into it, than what they were taught it should be, and so imagin’d it was, are easily persuaded, by other kind of tutors, which they are sure to meet with, that the discipline they were kept under, and the lectures read to them, were but the formalities of education and the restraints of childhood; that the freedom belonging to men is to take their swing in a full enjoyment of what was before forbidden them. They shew the young novice the world full of fashionable and glittering examples of this every where, and he is presently dazzled with them. My young master failing not to be willing to shew himself a man, as much as any of the sparks of his years, lets himself loose to all the irregularities he finds in the most debauch’d; and thus courts credit and manliness in the casting off the modesty and sobriety he has till then been kept in; and thinks it brave, at his first setting out, to signalize himself in running counter to all the rules of virtue which have been preach’d to him by his tutor.

The shewing him the world as really it is, before he comes wholly into it, is one of the best means, I think, to prevent this mischief. He should by degrees be informed of the vices in fashion, and warned of the applications and designs of those who will make it their business to corrupt him. He should be told the arts they use, and the trains they lay; and now and then have set before him the tragical or ridiculous examples of those who are ruining or ruin’d this way. The age is not like to want instances of this kind, which should be made land-marks to him, that by the disgraces, diseases, beggary, and shame of hopeful young men thus brought to ruin, he may be precaution’d, and be made see, how those join in the contempt and neglect of them that are undone, who, by pretences of friendship and respect, lead them to it, and help to prey upon them whilst they were undoing; that he may see, before he buys it by a too dear experience, that those who persuade him not to follow the sober advices he has receiv’d from his governors, and the counsel of his own reason, which they call being govern’d by others, do it only that they may have the government of him themselves; and make him believe, he goes like a man of himself, by his own conduct, and for his own pleasure, when in truth he is wholly as a child led by them into those vices which best serve their purposes. This is a knowledge which, upon all occasions, a tutor should endeavour to instil, and by all methods try to make him comprehend, and thoroughly relish.

I know it is often said, that to discover to a young man the vices of the age is to teach them him. That, I confess, is a good deal so, according as it is done; and therefore requires a discreet man of parts, who knows the world, and can judge of the temper, inclination, and weak side of his pupil. This farther is to be remember’d, that it is not possible now (as perhaps formerly it was) to keep a young gentleman from vice by a total ignorance of it, unless you will all his life mew him up in a closet, and never let him go into company. The longer he is kept thus hoodwink’d, the less he will see when he comes abroad into open daylight, and be the more expos’d to be a prey to himself and others. And an old boy, at his first appearance, with all the gravity of his ivy-bush about him, is sure to draw on him the eyes and chirping of the whole town volery; amongst which there will not be wanting some birds of prey, that will presently be on the wing for him.

The only fence against the world, is, a thorough knowledge of it, into which a young gentleman should be enter’d by degrees, as he can bear it; and the earlier the better, so he be in safe and skilful hands to guide him. The scene should be gently open’d, and his entrance made step by step, and the dangers pointed out that attend him from the several degrees, tempers, designs, and clubs of men. He should be prepar’d to be shock’d by some, and caress’d by others; warn’d who are like to oppose, who to mislead, who to undermine him, and who to serve him. He should be instructed how to know and distinguish them; where he should let them see, and when dissemble the knowledge of them and their aims and workings. And if he be too forward to venture upon his own strength and skill, the perplexity and trouble of a misadventure now and then, that reaches not his innocence, his health, or reputation, may not be an ill way to teach him more caution.

This, I confess, containing one great part of wisdom, is not the product of some superficial thoughts, or much reading; but the effect of experience and observation in a man who has liv’d in the world with his eyes open, and convers’d with men of all sorts. And therefore I think it of most value to be instill’d into a young man upon all occasions which offer themselves, that when he comes to launch into the deep himself, he may not be like one at sea without a line, compass or sea-chart; but may have some notice before-hand of the rocks and shoals, the currents and quick-sands, and know a little how to steer, that he sink not before he get experience. He that thinks not this of more moment to his son, and for which he more needs a governor, than the languages and learned sciences, forgets of how much more use it is to judge right of men, and manage his affairs wisely with them, than to speak Greek and Latin, or argue in mood and figure; or to have his head fill’d with the abstruse speculations of natural philosophy and metaphysicks; nay, than to be well vers’d in Greek and Roman writers, though that be much better for a gentleman than to be a good Peripatetick or Cartesian, because those antient authors observ’d and painted mankind well, and give the best light into that kind of knowledge. He that goes into the eastern parts of Asia, will find able and acceptable men without any of these; but without virtue, knowledge of the world, and civility, an accomplish’d and valuable man can be found no where.

A great part of the learning now in fashion in the schools of Europe, and that goes ordinarily into the round of education, a gentleman may in a good measure be unfurnish’d with, without any great disparagement to himself or prejudice to his affairs. But prudence and good breeding are in all the stations and occurrences of life necessary; and most young men suffer in the want of them, and come rawer and more awkward into the world than they should, for this very reason, because these qualities, which are of all other the most necessary to be taught, and stand most in need of the assistance and help of a teacher, are generally neglected and thought but a slight or no part of a tutor’s business. Latin and learning make all the noise; and the main stress is laid upon his proficiency in things a great part whereof belong not to a gentleman’s calling; which is to have the knowledge of a man of business, a carriage suitable to his rank, and to be eminent and useful in his country, according to his station. Whenever either spare hours from that, or an inclination to perfect himself in some parts of knowledge, which his tutor did but just enter him in, set him upon any study, the first rudiments of it, which he learn’d before, will open the way enough for his own industry to carry him as far as his fancy will prompt, or his parts enable him to go. Or, if he thinks it may save his time and pains to be help’d over some difficulties by the hand of a master, he may then take a man that is perfectly well skilled in it, or chuse such an one as he thinks fittest for his purpose. But to initiate his pupil in any part of learning, as far as is necessary for a young man in the ordinary course of his studies, an ordinary skill in the governor is enough. Nor is it requisite that he should be a thorough scholar, or possess in perfection all those sciences which ’tis convenient a young gentleman should have a taste of in some general view, or short system. A gentleman that would penetrate deeper must do it by his own genius and industry afterwards: For no body ever went far in knowledge, or became eminent in any of the sciences, by the discipline and constraint of a master.

The great work of a governor, is to fashion the carriage, and form the mind; to settle in his pupil good habits and the principles of virtue and wisdom; to give him by little and little a view of mankind, and work him into a love and imitation of what is excellent and praise-worthy; and, in the prosecution of it, to give him vigour, activity, and industry. The studies which he sets him upon, are but as it were the exercises of his faculties, and employment of his time, to keep him from sauntering and idleness, to teach him application, and accustom him to take pains, and to give him some little taste of what his own industry must perfect. For who expects, that under a tutor a young gentleman should be an accomplish’d critick, orator, or logician? go to the bottom of metaphysicks, natural philosophy, or mathematicks? or be a master in history or chronology? though something of each of these is to be taught him: But it is only to open the door, that he may look in, and as it were begin an acquaintance, but not to dwell there: And a governor would be much blam’d that should keep his pupil too long, and lead him too far in most of them. But of good breeding, knowledge of the world, virtue industry, and a love of reputation, he cannot have too much: And if he have these, he will not long want what he needs or desires of the other.

And since it cannot be hop’d he should have time and strength to learn all things, most pains should be taken about that which is most necessary; and that principally look’d after which will be of most and frequentest use to him in the world.

Seneca complains of the contrary practice in his time; and yet the Burgursdicius’s and the Scheiblers did not swarm in those days as they do now in these. What would he have thought if he had liv’d now, when the tutors think it their great business to fill the studies and heads of their pupils with such authors as these? He would have had much more reason to say, as he does, non vitæ sed scholæ discimus, we learn not to live, but to dispute; and our education fits us rather for the university than the world. But ’tis no wonder if those who make the fashion suit it to what they have, and not to what their pupils want. The fashion being once establish’d, who can think it strange, that in this, as well as in all other things, it should prevail? And that the greatest part of those, who find their account in an easy submission to it, should be ready to cry out, Heresy, when any one departs from it? ’Tis nevertheless matter of astonishment that men of quality and parts should suffer themselves to be so far misled by custom and implicit faith. Reason, if consulted with, would advise, that their children’s time should be spent in acquiring what might be useful to them when they come to be men, rather than to have their heads stuff’d with a deal of trash, a great part whereof they usually never do (’tis certain they never need to) think on again as long as they live: and so much of it as does stick by them they are only the worse for. This is so well known, that I appeal to parents themselves, who have been at cost to have their young heirs taught it, whether it be not ridiculous for their sons to have any tincture of that sort of learning, when they come abroad into the world? whether any appearance of it would not lessen and disgrace them in company? And that certainly must be an admirable acquisition, and deserves well to make a part in education, which men are asham’d of where they are most concern’d to shew their parts and breeding.

There is yet another reason why politeness of manners, and knowledge of the world should principally be look’d after in a tutor; and that is, because a man of parts and years may enter a lad far enough in any of those sciences, which he has no deep insight into himself. Books in these will be able to furnish him, and give him light and precedency enough to go before a young follower: but he will never be able to set another right in the knowledge of the world, and above all in breeding, who is a novice in them himself.

This is a knowledge he must have about him, worn into him by use and conversation and a long forming himself by what he has observ’d to be practis’d and allow’d in the best company. This, if he has it not of his own, is no where to be borrowed for the use of his pupil; or if he could find pertinent treatises of it in books that would reach all the particulars of an English gentleman’s behaviour, his own ill-fashion’d example, if he be not well-bred himself, would spoil all his lectures; it being impossible, that any one should come forth well-fashion’d out of unpolish’d, ill-bred company.

I say this, not that I think such a tutor is every day to be met with, or to be had at the ordinary rates; but that those who are able, may not be sparing of enquiry or cost in what is of so great moment; and that other parents, whose estates will not reach to greater salaries, may yet remember what they should principally have an eye to in the choice of one to whom they would commit the education of their children; and what part they should chiefly look after themselves, whilst they are under their care, and as often as they come within their observation; and not think that all lies in Latin and French or some dry systems of logick and philosophy.

§ 95. But to return to our method again. Though I have mention’d the severity of the father’s brow, and the awe settled thereby in the mind of children when young, as one main instrument whereby their education is to be manag’d; yet I am far from being of an opinion that it should be continu’d all along to them, whilst they are under the discipline and government of pupilage; I think it should be relax’d, as fast as their age, discretion and good behaviour could allow it; even to that degree, that a father will do well, as his son grows up, and is capable of it, to talk familiarly with him; nay, ask his advice, and consult with him about those things wherein he has any knowledge or understanding. By this, the father will gain two things, both of great moment. The one is, that it will put serious considerations into his son’s thoughts, better than any rules or advices he can give him. The sooner you treat him as a man, the sooner he will begin to be one: and if you admit him into serious discourses sometimes with you, you will insensibly raise his mind above the usual amusements of youth, and those trifling occupations which it is commonly wasted in. For it is easy to observe, that many young men continue longer in the thought and conversation of school-boys than otherwise they would, because their parents keep them at that distance, and in that low rank, by all their carriage to them.

§ 96. Another thing of greater consequence, which you will obtain by such a way of treating him, will be his friendship. Many fathers, though they proportion to their sons liberal allowances, according to their age and condition, yet they keep the knowledge of their estates and concerns from them with as much reservedness as if they were guarding a secret of state from a spy or an enemy. This, if it looks not like jealousy, yet it wants those marks of kindness and intimacy which a father should shew to his son, and no doubt often hinders or abates that chearfulness and satisfaction wherewith a son should address himself to and rely upon his father. And I cannot but often wonder to see fathers who love their sons very well, yet so order the matter by a constant stiffness and a mien of authority and distance to them all their lives, as if they were never to enjoy, or have any comfort from those they love best in the world, till they had lost them by being remov’d into another. Nothing cements and establishes friendship and good-will so much as confident communication of concernments and affairs. Other kindnesses, without this, leave still some doubts: but when your son sees you open your mind to him, when he finds that you interest him in your affairs, as things you are willing should in their turn come into his hands, he will be concern’d for them as for his own, wait his season with patience, and love you in the mean time, who keep him not at the distance of a stranger. This will also make him see, that the enjoyment you have, is not without care; which the more he is sensible of, the less will he envy you the possession, and the more think himself happy under the management of so favourable a friend and so careful a father. There is scarce any young man of so little thought, or so void of sense, that would not be glad of a sure friend, that he might have recourse to, and freely consult on occasion. The reservedness and distance that fathers keep, often deprive their sons of that refuge which would be of more advantage to them than an hundred rebukes and chidings. Would your son engage in some frolick, or take a vagary, were it not much better he should do it with, than without your knowledge? For since allowances for such things must be made to young men, the more you know of his intrigues and designs, the better will you be able to prevent great mischiefs; and by letting him see what is like to follow, take the right way of prevailing with him to avoid less inconveniences. Would you have him open his heart to you, and ask your advice? you must begin to do so with him first, and by your carriage beget that confidence.

§ 97. But whatever he consults you about, unless it lead to some fatal and irremediable mischief, be sure you advise only as a friend of more experience; but with your advice mingle nothing of command or authority, nor more than you would to your equal or a stranger. That would be to drive him for ever from any farther demanding, or receiving advantage from your counsel. You must consider that he is a young man, and has pleasures and fancies which you are pass’d. You must not expect his inclination should be just as yours, nor that at twenty he should have the same thoughts you have at fifty. All that you can wish, is, that since youth must have some liberty, some outleaps, they might be with the ingenuity of a son, and under the eye of a father, and then no very great harm can come of it. The way to obtain this, as I said before, is (according as you find him capable) to talk with him about your affairs, propose matters to him familiarly, and ask his advice; and when he ever lights on the right, follow it as his; and if it succeed well, let him have the commendation. This will not at all lessen your authority, but increase his love and esteem of you. Whilst you keep your estate, the staff will be in your own hands; and your authority the surer, the more it is strengthen’d with confidence and kindness. For you have not that power you ought to have over him, till he comes to be more afraid of offending so good a friend than of losing some part of his future expectation.

§ 98. Familiarity of discourse, if it can become a father to his son, may much more be condescended to by a tutor to his pupil. All their time together should not be spent in reading of lectures, and magisterially dictating to him what he is to observe and follow. Hearing him in his turn, and using him to reason about what is propos’d, will make the rules go down the easier and sink the deeper, and will give him a liking to study and instruction: And he will then begin to value knowledge, when he sees that it enables him to discourse, and he finds the pleasure and credit of bearing a part in the conversation, and of having his reasons sometimes approv’d and hearken’d to; particularly in morality, prudence, and breeding, cases should be put to him, and his judgment ask’d. This opens the understanding better than maxims, how well soever explain’d, and settles the rules better in the memory for practice. This way lets things into the mind which stick there, and retain their evidence with them; whereas words at best are faint representations, being not so much as the true shadows of things, and are much sooner forgotten. He will better comprehend the foundations and measures of decency and justice, and have livelier, and more lasting impressions of what he ought to do, by giving his opinion on cases propos’d, and reasoning with his tutor on fit instances, than by giving a silent, negligent, sleepy audience to his tutor’s lectures; and much more than by captious logical disputes, or set declamations of his own, upon any question. The one sets the thoughts upon wit and false colours, and not upon truth; the other teaches fallacy, wrangling, and opiniatry; and they are both of them things that spoil the judgment, and put a man out of the way of right and fair reasoning; and therefore carefully to be avoided by one who would improve himself, and be acceptable to others.

§ 99. When by making your son sensible that he depends on you, and is in your power, you have established your authority; and by being inflexibly severe in your carriage to him when obstinately persisting in any ill-natur’d trick which you have forbidden, especially lying, you have imprinted on his mind that awe which is necessary; and, on the other side, when (by permitting him the full liberty due to his age, and laying no restraint in your presence to those childish actions and gaiety of carriage, which, whilst he is very young, is as necessary to him as meat or sleep) you have reconcil’d him to your company, and made him sensible of your care and love of him, by indulgence and tenderness, especially caressing him on all occasions wherein he does any thing well, and being kind to him after a thousand fashions suitable to his age, which nature teaches parents better than I can: When, I say, by these ways of tenderness and affection, which parents never want for their children, you have also planted in him a particular affection for you; he is then in the state you could desire, and you have form’d in his mind that true reverence which is always afterwards carefully to be continu’d, and maintain’d in both parts of it, love, and fear, as the great principles whereby you will always have hold upon him, to turn his mind to the ways of virtue and honour.

§ 100. When this foundation is once well lay’d, and you find this reverence begin to work in him, the next thing to be done, is carefully to consider his temper, and the particular constitution of his mind. Stubbornness, lying, and ill-natur’d actions, are not (as has been said) to be permitted in him from the beginning, whatever his temper be. Those seeds of vices are not to be suffer’d to take any root, but must be carefully weeded out, as soon as ever they begin to shew themselves in him; and your authority is to take place and influence his mind, from the very dawning of any knowledge in him, that it may operate as a natural principle, whereof he never perceiv’d the beginning, never knew that it was, or could be otherwise. By this, if the reverence he owes you be establish’d early, it will always be sacred to him, and it will be as hard for him to resist as the principles of his nature.