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What's the use of school, anyway?
What’s the use of school, anyway?

YOUNG PEOPLE ACROSS THE COUNTRY are getting ready to finish the school year—some will graduate and never look back, while others will enjoy only the brief reprieve of summer vacation. Did any of us even need all that book-learning, though? One seventeenth-century Englishman suggests on-the-job training, in the fields where husbands know their wives and farmers know their cattle, is all the learning anyone needs. 

1618 | England

Schooling We Can Use

Now for learning, what your neede is thereof I know not, but with us, this is all we goe to schoole for: to read common Prayers at Church and set downe common prices at Markets; write a Letter and make a Bond; set downe the day of our Births, our Marriage Day, and make our Wills when we are sicke for the disposing of our goods when we are dead. These are the chiefe matters that we meddle with, and we find enough to trouble our heads withal. For if the fathers knowe their owne children, wives their owne husbands from other men, maydens keep their by-your-leaves from subtle batchelors, Farmers know their cattle by the heads, and Sheepheards know their sheepe by the brand, what more learning have we need of but that experience will teach us without booke? We can learne to plough and harrow, sow and reape, plant and prune, thrash and fanne, winnow and grinde, brue and bake, and all without booke; and these are our chiefe businesses in the Country, except we be Jury men to hang a theefe, or speake truth in a man’s right, which conscience & experience will teach us with a little learning. Then what should we study for, except it were to talke with the man in the Moone about the course of the Starres?

EXCERPT FROM

WAYS OF LEARNING
Fall 2008

NICHOLAS BRETON, The Court and Country. Breton, born to a wealthy Essex family in 1545, was a prolific author popular with his contemporaries for his pastoral and religious poems, and also wrote satires and pithy witticisms: “I wish my deadly foe, no worse/ Than want of friends, and empty purse.” He married in 1593 and died in 1626. 

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