The Simplified Wealth of Nations of Adam Smith, Book 5, Chapter 1r: Ancient Educational Institutions
Chapter 1r: Ancient Educational Institutions
166 Different educational plans and institutions took place in other ages and nations. 167 In the ancient Greek republic, every free citizen was instructed in gymnastic exercises and music, under the public magistrate.
Gymnastic exercises were intended to:
harden his body,
sharpen his courage, and
prepare him for war.
The Greek militia was one of the best in the world.
Their public education completely answered its purpose.
Music was intended to:
humanize the mind,
soften the temper, and
make the mind perform the social and moral duties of life.
168 In ancient Rome, the exercises of the Campus Martius had the same purpose as the Gymnasium in ancient Greece.
They answered that purpose equally well.
But the Romans did not have the musical education of the Greeks.
Roman public and private morals were much superior to those of the Greeks.
Polybius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus knew both Rome and Greece.
They have testimony that Roman morals were superior in private life.
Greek and Roman history accounts the superiority of Roman public morals.
The good temper and moderation of contending factions were the most essential circumstances in the public morals of a free people.
But the Greek factions were almost always violent and sanguinary.
No blood was ever shed in any Roman faction until the time of the Gracchi.
From the time of the Gracchi, the Roman republic was dissolved.
The very respectable Plato, Aristotle, Polybius thought that Greek musical education had a great effect in mending Greek morals
Mr. Montesquieu supports this with very ingenious reasons.
However, I think that it had no effect, because without any musical education, Roman morals were superior.
The respect of Plato, Aristotle, Polybius for their ancestors' institutions probably disposed them to find much political wisdom in a mere ancient custom.
This custom continued uninterrupted from the earliest to the most refined periods of those societies.
"Music and dancing are the great amusements of almost all barbarous nations."
They are great accomplishments for entertaining one's society.
It is so presently among the negroes on the African coast.
According to Homer, it was so among:
the ancient Celts,
the ancient Scandinavians and
the ancient Greeks before the Trojan war.
When the Greek tribes formed themselves into little republics, the study of those accomplishments naturally became part of public education for a long time.
169 The masters who instructed the young people in music or military exercises were not paid or appointed by the state either in Rome or Athens.
The state required that every free citizen should learn his military exercises to defend it in war.
But it left him to learn them from the masters he could find.
It only gave a public field where he should practise his exercises.
170 In the early ages of the Greek and Roman republics, the other parts of education consisted in learning to read, write, and compute according to the math of the times.
The richer citizens frequently acquired these skills at home through a domestic teacher, who was a slave or a freed-man.
The poorer citizens learned them in the schools of masters who taught for hire.
Such education were left to the care of each individual's parents or guardians.
The state never inspected or directed them.
By a law of Solon, children were free from maintaining their parents in old age, if the parents neglected to instruct them in some profitable trade.
171 In the progress of refinement, philosophy and rhetoric came into fashion.
The better sort of people used to send their children to the schools of philosophers and rhetoricians to be instructed in those fashionable sciences.
But those schools were not supported.
They were barely tolerated by the public.
For a long time, the demand for philosophy and rhetoric was so small that the first teachers could not find constant employment in any one city.
They were obliged to travel about from place to place.
Zeno of Elea, Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias, and many others lived in this way.
As the demand increased, the schools of philosophy and rhetoric became stationary first in Athens and afterwards in other cities.
However, the state never encouraged them further.
It assigned some of them a place to teach in:
The Academy to Plato
The Lyceum to Aristotle
The Portico to Zeno of Citta, the founder of the Stoics
Epicurus bequeathed his gardens to his own school.
Marcus Antoninus was a philosophical emperor.
Until his time, no teacher had any:
salary from the public, nor
any other emoluments but what arose from the fees of his scholars.
According to Lucian, the bounty Marcus Antonius bestowed on a philosophy teacher probably lasted as long as the teacher's life.
There was nothing equal to the privileges of graduation.
Attending those schools was not needed to practise any trade or profession.
The law did not:
force anybody to go to schools, nor
reward anybody for going to them.
The teachers had no jurisdiction over their pupils.
Their only authority was the natural authority that skilled and virtuous teachers have over their students.
172 At Rome, the study of the civil law was part of the education of some particular families and not of the citizens.
The young people who wished to study law, had no public school to go to.
They could only study law by frequenting the company of their relations and friends who understood it.
Many of the laws of the 12 tables were copied from the laws of the ancient Greek republics.
Yet law was never a science in any ancient Greek republic.
In Rome it became a science very early.
It gave a high degree of illustration to those who understood it.
In the ancient Greek republics, particularly in Athens, the ordinary courts of justice consisted of numerous, disorderly bodies of people.
They frequently decided at random or as clamour, faction, and party spirit happened to determine.
The ignominy of an unjust decision, when it was to be divided among 500 to 1,500 people (some of their courts were so numerous), could not fall very heavy on any individual.
On the contrary, the principal courts of justice at Rome had one or a few judges who deliberated in public.
Their character would always be very much affected by any rash or unjust decision.
In doubtful cases, they would naturally shelter themselves under the example or precedent of the judges before them in order to avoid blame.
This attention to practice and precedent formed the Roman law into that regular and orderly system delivered down to us.
Other countries which gave the same attention created the same effects on their laws.
The superiority of Roman character over the Greeks was so much remarked by Polybius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus.
It probably owed more to the better constitution of their courts of justice than to any circumstance those authors ascribe it.
The Romans were distinguished for their superior respect to an oath.
But the people who made oaths before a diligent and well-informed court of justice would naturally be much more attentive to what they swore than those who swore before mobbish and disorderly assemblies.
173 The civil and military abilities of the Greeks and Romans were at least equal to any modern nation.
We overrate them.
The Greek and Roman states did not strive to form those abilities, except in military exercises.
I cannot believe that the Greek musical education helped form those abilities.
Masters were found for teaching the better sort of people in every art and science necessary for their society.
The demand for such instruction produced what it always produces, the talent for giving it.
An unrestrained competition never fails to excite emulation.
This emulation brought that talent to a very high degree of perfection.
The ancient philosophers were much superior to any modern teachers in:
the attention they excited,
the empire they acquired over the opinions and principles of their auditors, and
their faculty of giving a certain tone and character to those auditors' conduct and conversation.
In modern times, the diligence of public teachers is corrupted by the separation of their success and their reputation in teaching.
The salaries of public teachers put the private teacher, who competes with them, in the same state as a merchant who trades without a bounty competing with merchants who have a big bounty.
If he sells his goods at the same price, he cannot have the same profit.
He will be bankrupt and ruined.
If he attempts to sell them dearer, he will have so few customers.
The privileges of graduation are necessary or at least extremely convenient to most men of learned professions.
But those privileges can be obtained only by attending the lectures of the public teachers.
The most careful attendance to the ablest instructions of any private teacher cannot always give any title to them.
Because of these, the private teacher of the sciences which are taught in modern universities is considered the lowest order of men of letters.
This is the most humiliating or unprofitable employment for a man of real abilities.
The endowment of schools and colleges have:
corrupted the diligence of public teachers, and
rendered it almost impossible to have any good private teachers.
174 If there are no public educational institutions, only the sciences and systems which were necessary, convenient, fashionable, and in demand would be taught.
A private teacher could never get by teaching a science that was:
exploded, antiquated, but useful, and
universally believed to be a useless and pedantic heap of sophistry and nonsense.
Such systems and sciences can only subsist in incorporated societies for educating people whose wealth is independent of their reputation and industry.
If there were no public educational institutions, a gentleman who completes all the available education would not be ignorant of worldly subjects.