Monday, April 14, 2008

Austen on Education

I also read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice last week. I was completely hooked by Masterpiece Theater's recent run of "The Complete Jane Austen." There I've said it. I know what some of you (primarily SB are thinking). First, the quilting post and now this. "This blog is becoming more about Martha Stewart than John Calvin," I hear you murmuring. But rest assured dear readers, Jane Austen is for real men.
Anyhow, here is one great quote on education. Setting: The pompous Lady de Bourgh needles Elizabeth Bennet about her modest family's lack of a governess to assist in their education:

"No governess! How is that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without a governess! I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education."
Elizabeth could hardly help smiling, as she assured her that had not been the case.
"Then, who taught you? Who attended to you? Without a governess you must have been negelcted?"

"Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to learn never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle certainly might."

What is great about this passage? First, there is Austen's wit. She makes the reader smile, as Elizabeth does, at idea of the selfish Mrs. Bennet being a slave to her daughters' education and at the lampooning of Lady de Bourgh as self-appointed expert in all things, including education. It is also quite a plug for homeschooling. Try substituting the word "school" for "governess." It also points to the reading of great books as the cornerstone for education. Add to this the idea of personal responsibility in education. How did Elizabeth become so wise, while her sister Lydia remained so silly?


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