Passage by William Penn
For our next entry, I have a historical passage written by William Penn from the section on education, in “Some Fruits of Solitude,” originally published in 1693. This passage is found in a pamphlet by Elbert Russell, “Early Friends and Education,” published by The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends’ Committee on Education in 1925. In this excerpt, Russell points out Penn’s appreciation of the “importance of activity in education and of the experimental and ethical in true learning.”
From my experience in attending and working at Friends Schools, these two principles, ‘experiential learning’ and ‘Quaker ethical values,’ are a central focus of Friends schools’ missions. I was intrigued to see such early writings embracing this practice. And with so many schools including a focus on Stewardship, this passage also offers a historical context of learning from nature as a pedagogical practice. Enjoy reading and please consider sharing your thoughts and interpretations!
We are in Pain to make them Scholars, but not Men [or Women]! To talk, rather than to know, which is true Canting.
The first Thing obvious to Children is what is sensible; and that we make no Part of their rudiments.
We press their Memory too soon, and puzzle, strain, and load them with Words and Rules; to know Grammer and Rhetorick, and a strange Tongue or two, that it is ten to one may never be useful to them; Leaving their natural Genius to Mechanical and Physical, or natural Knowledge uncultivated and neglected; which would be of exceeding Use and Pleasure to them through the whole Course of their Life.
To be sure, Languages are not to be despised or neglected. But Things are still to be preferred.
Children had rather be making of Tools and Instruments of Play; Shaping, Drawing, Framing, and Building, &c. than getting some Rules of Propriety of Speech by Heart: And those also would follow with more judgment, and less Trouble and Time.
It were Happy if we studied Nature more in natural Things; and acted according to Nature; whose rules are few, plain and most reasonable.
Let us begin where she begins, go her Pace, and close always where she ends, and we cannot miss of being good Naturalists.