The Simplified Wealth of Nations of Adam Smith, Book 5, Chapter 1u: Women's Education and Basic Educational Institutions
Chapter 1u: Women's Education and Basic Educational Institutions
175 There are no public educational institutions for women.
There is accordingly nothing useless, absurd, or fantastic in their common education.
They are taught what their parents judge necessary or useful for them to learn and nothing else.
Their education is used to:
improve the natural attractions of their person,
form their mind to reserve, modesty, chastity, and economy,
make them the mistresses of a family, and
make them behave properly when they have become such.
In every part of her life, a woman feels some conveniency or advantage from her education.
A man seldom derives any conveniency or advantage from the most laborious and troublesome education.
176 Should the public give no attention to the people's education?
If it should give any, what are the parts of education which it should attend to in the different orders of people?
How should it to attend to them?
177 In some cases, the state places most individuals in situations that allow them to naturally develop almost all the abilities and virtues required by that state, without any government attention.
In other cases, the state does not place individuals in such situations.
Some government attention is needed to prevent the people's corruption and degeneracy.
178 In the progress of the division of labour, the employment of most of people becomes confined to a few very simple operations, frequently to one or two.
But the understandings of most men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments.
The man who performs a few, simple, unchanging operations his whole life, does not commonly need to exert his understanding or find ways to remove difficulties which never occur.
He naturally loses the habit of such exertion.
He generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as possible for a human to become.
The torpor of his mind renders him incapable of:
relishing any rational conversation
conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment
forming any just judgement about the ordinary duties of private life
He is incapable of judging the great and extensive interests of his country.
He is equally incapable of defending his country in war.
The uniformity of his stationary life naturally corrupts the courage of his mind.
It makes him abhor the irregular, uncertain, and adventurous life of a soldier.
It corrupts even the activity of his body.
It renders him incapable of exerting his strength with vigour and perseverance in any other employment.
His dexterity at his own trade is acquired at the cost of his intellectual, social, and martial virtues.
In every civilized society, this is the state of the labouring poor or most of the people, unless the government prevents it.
179 It is otherwise in the barbarous societies of hunters, shepherds, and husbandmen.
In such societies, the varied occupations of every man oblige them to:
exert their capacity
invent expedients for removing difficulties continually occurring
Invention is kept alive.
The mind does not fall into that drowsy stupidity.
In a civilized society, it seems to benumb the understanding of the inferior ranks of people.
In those barbarous societies, every man is a warrior.
Every man too is in some measure a statesman.
He can form a tolerable judgement about:
his society's interest and
the conduct of its leaders.
Almost everyone in his society knows how good their chiefs are as judges in peace or as leaders in war.
In such a society, no one can acquire the improved and refined understanding which a few men can have in a more civilized state.
A rude society has more variety in individual occupations.
But there is little variety in the occupations of the whole society taken together.
Every man does almost everything which any other man does.
Every man has a considerable degree of knowledge, ingenuity, and invention, but no one has a great degree of them.
What they have is sufficient only for conducting the simple business of society.
In a civilized state, on the contrary, there is little variety in individual occupations.
But there is an almost infinite variety in the occupations of the whole society.
A few people are not attached to a particular occupation.
They have leisure and inclination to examine the occupations of other people
These varied occupations present an almost infinite variety of objects to their contemplation.
The contemplation of such a variety of objects exercises their minds in endless comparisons and combinations.
It renders their understandings extraordinarily acute and comprehensive.
Unless those few were placed in very particular situations, their great, honourable abilities may contribute very little for their society's happiness.
All the nobler parts of the human character may be extinguished in the people.
180In a civilized society, the education of the common people requires perhaps the public's attention more than those of people of rank and fortune.
People of some rank and fortune are generally 18 or 19 years old before they enter their business or profession, wherein they hope to distinguish themselves.
Before that, they have time to acquire every accomplishment which can make them worthy of the public esteem.
Their parents or guardians are anxious that they should be so accomplished.
In most cases, they are willing to spend for that purpose.
If they are not always properly educated, it is because of:
the improper spending, and not from the lack of spending for education,
the negligence and incapacity of the available teachers, not from the lack of teachers, and
the difficulty of finding more skilled teachers.
The employments of people of rank or fortune are not simple and uniform like those of the common people.
They are almost all extremely complicated.
They exercise the head more than the hands.
They generally have a lot of leisure.
Their intellect seldom grows torpid from the lack of exercise.
They may perfect themselves in every useful or ornamental knowledge.
181 It is otherwise with the common people.
They have little time to spare for education.
Their parents cannot afford to maintain them even in infancy.
As soon as they are able to work, they must get employment to earn their subsistence.
That employment is generally so simple and uniform.
It gives little exercise to the understanding.
Their labour is so constant and so severe.
It leaves them little leisure and less inclination to think of anything else.
182 The most essential parts of education are to:
Common people cannot be so well instructed as rich people.
However, this essential education can be acquired so early in life.
Most of those bred to the lowest occupations can acquire them before they are employed.
For a very small cost, the public can facilitate, encourage, and impose essential education on the people.
183The public can facilitate this by establishing a little school in every district where children may be taught for a very small fee that even a common labourer can afford.
The teacher is partly paid by the public.
If he was wholly or principally paid by the public, he would soon neglect teaching.
In Scotland, such schools has taught almost all common people to read and many of them to write and compute.
In England, charity schools have the same effect though not so universally, because charity schools are not so universal.
The literary education of children would perhaps be complete if, in those little schools:
the books for little children were more instructive
they were taught basic geometry and mechanics instead of useless Latin
Almost all common trades require geometry and mechanics
Those trades gradually exercise and improve the common people in those very sublime and useful sciences.
184The public can encourage basic education by giving small premiums and little badges of distinction to excellent children.185The public can impose basic education on people by obliging every man to undergo an exam before he can be allowed to set up any trade.186 Similarly, the Greeks and Romans maintained their martial spirit by encouraging and even imposing the need for military and gymnastic exercises.
They appointed a place for learning and practising those exercises.
They allowed teachers to give training in that place.
Those teachers did not have salaries nor any exclusive privileges.
Their whole reward came from their scholars.
A citizen trained in the public Gymnasia had no legal advantage over one who trained privately as long as the private learner trained equally well.
Those republics encouraged those exercises by bestowing little premiums and badges of distinction on those who excelled in them.
The prize in the Olympic games gave honour to the winner and his family.
Every citizen was obliged to serve a number of years in the army.
It imposed the need for learning those exercises, without which he could not be fit for the army.
187Modern Europe proves that in the progress of improvement, military exercises and the martial spirit of the people gradually decays unless the government supports it.
The security of every society must always depend on the people's martial spirit.
Presently, that martial spirit alone, without a standing army, would be insufficient to defend any society.
But where every citizen had the spirit of a soldier, a smaller standing army would be needed.
That spirit would very much reduce the dangers to liberty commonly seen from a standing army.
It would very much help that army's operations against a foreign invader.
It would likewise obstruct them if they were directed against the state.
188 The ancient institutions of Greece and Rome were much more effective in maintaining the people's martial spirit than the establishment of modern militias.
Those ancient institutions were much more simple.
After their establishment, they executed themselves.
It required little from government to maintain them in perfect shape.
On the other hand, modern militias require the continual and painful attention of the government to maintain.
The influence of the ancient institutions was much more universal.
They completely instructed the people in the use of arms.
Whereas only a very small part of them can ever be so instructed by the regulations of any modern militia, except that of Switzerland.
But a coward is as mutilated and deformed in his mind as a disabled person is deformed in his body.
A coward is more wretched and miserable than a disabled person, because happiness and misery reside in the mind.
He must depend more on the state of the mind than the state of the body.
The people's martial spirit prevents that mental mutilation, deformity, and wretchedness which cowardice brings.
The martial spirit prevents that mental deformity from spreading through the people.
It deserves the most serious attention of government even if it provides no physical defence.
This is the same way that leprosy or any loathsome disease must be prevented by government from spreading, even if preventing its spread did not bring any other benefit.
189 The same thing may be said of the gross ignorance and stupidity in a civilized society.
It frequently benumbs the understandings of all inferior people.
A man with no human intelligence is more contemptible than even a coward.
He seems more mutilated and deformed in his mind.
Government must pay attention that such people should be instructed, even if the country derives no advantage from their instruction.
The more they are instructed, the less liable they are to the delusions of enthusiasm and superstition.
These cause the most dreadful disorders among ignorant nations.
"An instructed and intelligent people, are always more decent and orderly than an ignorant and stupid one."
Each person feels more respectable to his superior.
Each person is therefore more disposed to respect his superiors.
They can better examine the interested complaints of faction and sedition.
They are less apt to be misled into any wanton or unnecessary opposition to government.
In free countries, the safety of government depends very much on the favourable judgement from its people.
They must not judge rashly or capriciously concerning it.