Some Thoughts Concerning Education

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Nor indeed, should the same Carriage, Seriousness, or Application be expected from young Children, as from those of riper Growth: They must be permitted, as I said, the foolish and childish Actions suitable to their Years, without taking notice of them: Inadvertency, Carelessness and Gayety is the Character of that Age.

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I think the Severity I spoke of is not to extend it self to such unseasonable Restraints. They understand it as early as they do Language; and, if I mis-observe not, they love to be treated as Rational Creatures sooner than is imagined. But yet if their Age, Temper and Inclinations be considered, there will never want such Motives as may be sufficient to convince them. If there be no other more particular, yet these will always be intelligible, and of force to deterr them from any Fault fit to be taken notice of in them, viz.

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That it will be a Discredit and Disgrace to them, and displease you. This is a Method to be used, not only whilst they are young, but to be continued even as long as they shall be under another's Tuition or Conduct. For I would have a Father seldom strike his Child, but upon very urgent Necessity, and as the last Remedy; and then perhaps it will be fit to do it so, that the Child should not quickly forget it. But, as I said before, Beating is the worst, and therefore the last Means to be used in the Correction of Children; and that only in Cases of Extremity, after all gentler Ways have been tried, and proved unsuccessful; which, if well observed, there will be very seldom any need of Blows.

This Course, if observed, will spare both Father and Child the trouble of repeated Injunctions and multiplied Rules of Doing and Forbearing. And the best Remedy to stop them, is, as I have said, to shew Wonder and Amazement at any such Action, as hath a vitious Tendency, when it is first taken Notice of in a Child. For Example, When he is first found in a Lye or any ill natur'd Trick, the first Remedy should be to talk to him of it as a strange, monstrous Matter, that it could not be imagin'd he would have done, and so shame him out of it.

If it be any Father's Misfortune to have a Son thus perverse and untractable, I know not what more he can do but pray for him. But let him by no means Beat him, at least without your Consent and Direction. As to the Charge of it, I think it will be the Money best laid out, that can be, about our Children; and therefore though it may be Expensive more than is ordinary, yet it cannot be thought dear. This I can look on as no other than a Sacrificing to their own Vanity; it shewing more their Pride than true Care of the good of their Children.

Whatsoever you imploy to the Advantage of your Son's Mind will shew your true Kindness, though it be to the lessening of his Estate. For those of small Age, Parts and Vertue, are unfit for this Imployment; and those that have greater, will hardly be got to undertake such a Charge.

In this Choice be as Curious as you would in that of a Wife for him: For you must not think of Trial or Changing afterwards, that will cause great Inconvenience to you, and greater to your Son.

English-German Dictionary

When I consider the Scruples and Cautions I here lay in your way, methinks it looks as if I advised you to something, which I would have offer'd at, but in Effect not done. The one is, That it will put serious Considerations into his Son's Thoughts, better than any Rules or Advices he can give him. This will also make him see, that the Enjoyment you have is not without Care, which the more he is sensible of, the less will he envy you the Possession, and the more think himself Happy under the Management of so favourable a Friend, and so careful a Father.

For since Allowances for such things must be made to Young Men, the more you know of his Intrigues and Designs, the better will you be able to prevent great Mischiefs; and by letting him see what is like to follow, take the right way of prevailing with him to avoid less Inconveniencies. Would you have him open his Heart to you, and ask your Advice? That would be to drive him for ever from any farther demanding or receiving Advantage from your Counsel. You must consider, that he is a Young Man, and has Pleasures and Fancies, which you are pass'd.

You must not expect his Inclinations should be just as yours, nor that at Twenty he should have the same Thoughts you have at Fifty.


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This will not at all lessen your Authority, but increase his Love and Esteem of you. For you have not that Power, you ought to have over him, till he comes to be more afraid of offending so good a Friend, than of losing some part of his future Expectation. This Love of Power and dominion shews it self very early and that in these Two Things:. What then, would you not have them declare their Wants? This is to be kept very stanch, and carefully to be watched. Curiosity should be as carefully cherished in Children, as other Appetites suppressed.

But though you give no countenance to the Complaints of the Querulous, yet take care to suppress all Insolence and Ill-nature. Let all the Instances he gives of such freeness be always repaid, and with interest; and let him sensibly perceive, that the Kindness he shows to others, is no ill husbandry for himself, but that it brings a return of Kindness both from those that receive it, and those who look on. Their Crying is of two sorts; either stubborn and domineering, or querulous and whining. This is an open justifying themselves, and a sort of Remonstrance of the unjustness of the Oppression, which denies them, what they have a mind to.

Sometimes their crying is the effect of Pain, or true Sorrow, and a bemoaning themselves under it. As this gives us a Reason why Children should seldom be corrected, so it also prevents their being so. Help and ease them the best you can, but by no means bemoan them. But let the hurts they receive, be what they will, stop their Crying, and that will give them more quiet and ease at present, and harden them for the future.

The former sort of Crying requires severity to silence it, and where a Look or a positive Command will not do it, Blows must.

John Locke's Thoughts on Education

Persuasion, or diverting the Thoughts another way, or laughing at their whining, may perhaps be at first the proper Method. This I think should be watched in them, and if they incline to any such Cruelty; they should be taught the contrary Usage. People teach Children to strike, and laugh, when they hurt, or see harm come to others: And they have the Examples of most about them, to confirm them in it. The ways to encourage it, and keep it active and vigorous, are, I suppose, these following:. They are Travellers newly arrived in a strange Country, of which they know nothing: We should therefore make conscience not to mis-lead them.

And perhaps to a grown Man, such Conversation will not be altogether so idle and insignificant, as we are apt to imagine. For though he find that he does loyter at his Book, and let a good deal of the time he spends in his Chamber or Study run idly away, he must not presently conclude, that this is from a sauntring Humour in his Temper. To know this perfectly, you must watch him at play, when he is out of his Place and time of Study following his own inclinations, and see there, whether he be vigorous and active; whether he designs any thing, and with labour and eagerness pursues it, till he has accomplished what he aimed at; or whether he lazily and listlesly dreams away his time.

If this sloth be only, when he is about his book, I think it may be easily cured.

If it be in his Temper it will require a Tittle more Pains and Attention to remedy it. If it prevails not, try to shame him out of it, by laughing at him for it, asking every day, if there be no Strangers there, when he comes to Table, how long he was that Day about his Business, and if he has not done it in the time he might be well supposed to have dispatch'd it, expose and turn him into ridicule for it, but mix no chiding, only put on a pretty cold Brow towards him, and keep it till he reform and let his Mother.

But when you thus set him a Task of his Play, you must be sure to look after him your self, or set some-body else to do it, that may constantly see him employ'd in it, and that he be not permitted to be idle at that too.

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Some Thoughts Concerning Education - John Locke - Oxford Scholarly Editions

But though you have your Eyes upon him, to watch what he does, with the time he has at his own disposal, yet you must not let him perceive, that you, or any body else do so. If listlesness and drearning be his natural Disposition. For where there is no Desire, there will be no Industry.

If you have not hold enough upon him this way to stir up Vigor and Activity in him, you must imploy him in some constant bodily Labour, whereby he may get an habit of doing something. This, if I mistake not, will, in a few Days, make him so weary of his most beloved Sport, that he will preferr his Book, or any thing to it, especially if it may redeem him from any part of the task of play is set him, and he may be suffered to imploy some part of the time, destined to his Task of Play, in his Book, or such other Exercise as is really useful to him.

This I think is sufficiently evident, That Children generally hate to be idle. The way to do this, so that they may not perceive you have any hand in it, is this proposed here; viz. To make them weary of that, which you would not have them do, by enjoyning, and making them under some pretence or other do it, till they are surfeited. For example: Does your Son play at Top, and scourge too much? All that they desire being to be busie, and busie, as they imagine, in things of their own choice, and which they receive as Favours from their parents, or others, for whom they have respect, and with whom they would be in credit.

If that keeps him not from relapsing, the next time he must be sharply rebuked, and fall into the state of great Displeasure of his Father and Mother, and all about him, who take notice of it. And if this way work not the Cure, you must come to blows. But yet it ought to be cured rather with shame than roughness. If his Excuse be such at any time, that you cannot prove it to have any Falshood in it, let it pass for True, and be sure not to shew any Suspicion of it. Thus some slips in Truth may be over-looked. It being the usual Method of Servants to awe Children, and keep them in subjection, by telling them of Raw-Head and Bloody-Bones, and such other Names, as carry with them the Idea's of some hurtful terrible Things, inhabiting darkness.

This must be carefully prevented. And to let you see, how lasting frightful Images are, that take place in the Mind early, I shall here tell you a pretty remarkable but true Story. This frightning Idea made so deep an Impression there, that it lasted many Years, if not all his Life after. And to teach him betimes to love, and be good natur'd to others, is to lay early the true Foundation of an honest Man: All Injustice generally springing from too great Love of our selves, and too little of others. This is all I shall say of this Matter in general, and is enough for laying the first Foundations of Vertue in a Child.

No cover was ever made either so big or so fine as to hide its self. No Body was ever so cunning as to conceal their being so; and when they are once discovered, every body is shie, every Body distrustful of crafty Men, and all the World forwardly joyn to oppose and defeat them. To accustom a Child to have true Notions of things, and not to be satisfied till he has them.

The first Part of this Rule must not be understood in opposition to Humility, but to assurance: We ought not to think so well of our selves, as to stand upon our own Value, or assume a Preference to others, because of any Advantage, we may imagine, we have over them; but Modestly to take what is offered, when it is our due. From the one, Men are called Civil; from the other Well fashion'd.

The latter of these is, that decency and gracefullness of Looks, Voice, Words, Motions, Gestures, and of all the whole outward Demeanour, which pleases in Company, and makes those easie and delighted, whom we Converse with. This is, as it were, the Language, whereby that internal Civility of the Mind is expressed; and being very much governed by the Fashion and Custom of every Country, as other Languages are, must, in the Rules and Practice of it, be learn'd chiefly from observation, and the Carriage of those, who are allow'd to be exactly well-bred.

The thing they should endeavour and aim at in Conversation, should be to shew Respect, Esteem, and Good-will, by paying to every one that common Ceremony and regard which is in civility due to them. Teach them Humility, and to be good-natur'd, if you can, and this sort of Manners will not be wanting: Civility being, in truth, nothing but a care not to shew any slighting, or contempt, of any one in Conversation.


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  • A Plough-man of your Neighbourhood, that has never been out of his Parish, read what Lectures you please to him, will be as soon in his Language as his Carriage a Courtier; that is, neither will be more polite than of those he uses to converse with: And therefore of this, no other care can be taken.

    And, in good earnest, if I were to speak my Mind freely, so Children do nothing out of Obstinacy, Pride, and Ill-nature, 'tis no great matter how they put off their Hats, or make Legs. And therefore I think it not worth your while to have your Son as I often see Children are molested or child about it: But where there is Pride or Ill-nature appearing in his Carriage, there he must be persuaded or shamed out of it.