May 23, 2006

Adam Smith Knows Education

Hot on the heels of my and Edwonk's dueling WWI analogies, history once again comes to my rescue.

TracyW brings to my attention a quote from Adam Smith, the father of capitalism and new patron saint of D-Ed Reckoning, in the Wealth of Nations:

Where the masters, however, really perform their duty, there are no examples, I believe, that the greater part of the students ever neglect theirs. No discipline is ever requisite to force attendance upon lectures which are really worth the attending, as is well known wherever any such lectures are given. Force and restraint may, no doubt, be in some degree requisite in order to oblige children, or very young boys, to attend to those parts of education which it is thought necessary for them to acquire during that early period of life; but after twelve or thirteen years of age, provided the master does his duty, force or restraint can scarce ever be necessary to carry on any part of education.
Adam Smith knows motivation. Adam Smith knows that ineffective instruction kills motivation. Back in the 18th Century no less. Adam Smith knew the evils of progressive education before it existed.

Adam Smith loved capitalism, but hated capitalists. Imagine what he'd think of our current crop of progressive educators.


Anonymous said...

Glad to have provided you with a patron saint (assuming you are not in fact Adam Smith wearing a fake nose, a point which I note you have yet to offer any contradiction to).

Reading more in that chapter I quoted from, Adam Smith is very strongly persuaded that teachers will not be any good unless they are directly paid by their students.
"Those parts of education, it is to be observed, for the teaching of which there are no public institutions, are generally the best taught. When a young man goes to a fencing or a dancing school, he does not indeed always learn to fence or to dance very well; but he seldom fails of learning to fence or to dance.
In general, the richest and best endowed universities have been the slowest in adopting those improvements, and the most averse to permit any considerable change in the established plan of education. Those improvements were more easily introduced into some of the poorer universities, in which the teachers, depending upon their reputation for the greater part of their subsistence, were obliged to pay more attention to the current opinions of the world.
The public can facilitate this acquisition by establishing in every parish or district a little school, where children may be taught for a reward so moderate that even a common labourer may afford it; the master being partly, but not wholly, paid by the public, because, if he was wholly, or even principally, paid by it, he would soon learn to neglect his business."

KDeRosa said...

(assuming you are not in fact Adam Smith wearing a fake nose, a point which I note you have yet to offer any contradiction to)

I'll never telll.