Monday, October 29, 2018

Public Schools in Jane Austen’s Day

From Random Bits of Fascination:
Public schools were public in the sense that boys were taught in groups outside of their private homes, not in the sense that these institutions were funded by public funds. A number of public schools existed, but the landed elite in particular chose to send their sons to a select number of these schools:  Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Westminster, Rugby, Charterhouse and Shrewsbury. (Adkins, 2013)  The exact timing and duration of a boys stay at school varied greatly. Some were sent as young as age seven and stayed until age eighteen. More commonly boys started public schools around age thirteen and stayed about five years. Though Regency era education was very different from modern education, two factors in particular seem to distinguish it most from modern schooling: the curriculum taught and the lifestyle of the students.

In his 1693 treatise, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, John Locke recommended that instruction in foreign language (beginning with a living language like French) should start as soon as a boy could speak English. Locke considered Latin and Greek to be absolutely essential to a gentleman’s education, enabling him to read classical literature. In addition, he endorsed the study of geography, astronomy, anatomy, chronology, history, mathematics and geometry. (Morris, 2015). 
Based on Locke’s foundations, students were expected to know some Latin upon arrival to public school. “The first two years of their education was entirely a study of Latin–memorizing, reciting, reading, and answering set questions in that language, so pronunciation too.  … Thus they learned to be confident public speakers, first in Latin, then in classical Greek and finally in English.” (Bennetts 2010) These studies also developed an understanding of the moral and philosophical issues brought up by the classical thinkers and a literary appreciation of poetry and prose. Dancing, fencing and other sports also featured in some curriculums.

What was notably absent from both public school and university educations were courses on anything the modern mind would consider practical. Since these establishments catered to gentlemen who were not destined to actually work for their living, courses like bookkeeping or land management that might equip them for jobs (oh the horror!) were relegated to schools that catered to the sons of men in trade. (Selwyn 2010) (Read more.)

1 comment:

Hope said...

Fascinating. These schools presumably produced the men who created and maintained the British Empire.