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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Need of Good Schoolmasters
By Plutarch (c. 45–120 A.D.)
 
From ‘A Discourse on the Training of Children,’ in Plutarch’s ‘Miscellanies and Essays’: Translation of Simon Ford

WE are to look after such masters for our children as are blameless in their lives, not justly reprovable for their manners, and of the best experience in teaching. For the very spring and root of honesty and virtue lies in the felicity of lighting on good education. And as husbandmen are wont to set forks to prop up feeble plants, so do honest schoolmasters prop up youth by careful instructions and admonitions, that they may duly bring forth the buds of good manners. But there are certain fathers nowadays who deserve that men should spit on them in contempt, who, before making any proof of those to whom they design to commit the teaching of their children, intrust them—either through unacquaintance, or as it sometimes falls out, through bad judgment—to men of no good reputation, or it may be such as are branded with infamy. They are not altogether so ridiculous, if they offend herein through bad judgment; but it is a thing most extremely absurd, when, as oftentimes it happens, though they know and are told beforehand by those who understand better than themselves, both of the incapacity and rascality of certain schoolmasters, they nevertheless commit the charge of their children to them, sometimes overcome by their fair and flattering speeches, and sometimes prevailed on to gratify friends who entreat them. This is an error of like nature with that of the sick man who to please his friends, forbears to send for the physician that might save his life by his skill, and employs a mountebank that quickly dispatcheth him out of the world; or of him who refuses a skillful shipmaster, and then at his friend’s entreaty commits the care of his vessel to one that is therein much his inferior. In the name of Jupiter and all the gods, tell me how can that man deserve the name of a father, who is more concerned to gratify others in their requests than to have his children well educated? Or is not that rather fitly applicable to this case which Socrates, that ancient philosopher, was wont to say,—that if he could get up to the highest place in the city, he would lift up his voice and make this proclamation thence: “What mean you, fellow-citizens, that you thus turn every stone to scrape wealth together, and take so little care of your children, to whom one day you must relinquish it all?”—to which I would add this, that such parents do like him that is solicitous about his shoe, but neglects the foot that is to wear it. And yet many fathers there are, who care so much for their money and so little for their children, that lest it should cost them more than they are willing to spare to hire a good schoolmaster for them, they rather choose such persons to instruct their children as are of no worth; thereby beating down the market, that they may purchase ignorance cheap. It was therefore a witty and handsome jeer which Aristippus bestowed on a stupid father, who asked him what he would take to teach his child. He answered, a thousand drachms. Whereupon the other cried out: O Hercules, what a price you ask! for I can buy a slave at that rate. Do so, then, said the philosopher, and thou shalt have two slaves instead of one,—thy son for one, and him thou buyest for another.  1
 
 
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