Silence Dogood #4

In Benjamin Franklin’s 4th essay published May 14th in 1722 under the pen name, Silence Dogood, he draws to attention, through vivid description and details of the collegiate society, one of the current issues of that time period: college education. Just like Franklin’s parents had to choose out of their many children whom would be able to attend college, many other families struggled with the same problem. Franklin’s parents’ decision was based on financial and cognitive ability i.e. which child had shown the most potential and had the best chance of prospering thereafter.

In this article Franklin discusses with his Reverend his own struggle, “I ask’d his Advice about my young Son William, whether or no I had best bestow upon him Academical Learning.” Franklin reiterates Clericus, the Reverend’s, determination to persuade him into sending William to college and after which Franklin takes a walk in the garden, falls asleep, and dreams of how the college accepts its students and later returns them into the world slightly educated and more arrogant. Franklin suggests that it was common of the time to send 1 child to school if they had the financial means but what families did not account for was the child’s ability to perform in school and the marginal benefit they would later receive having sent them. He states, “I reflected in my Mind on the extream Folly of those Parents, who, blind to their Childrens Dulness, and insensible of the Solidity of their Skulls, because they think their Purses can afford it, will needs send them to the Temple of Learning, where, for want of a suitable Genius, they learn little more than how to carry themselves handsomely, and enter a Room genteely….and from whence they return, after Abundance of Trouble and Charge, as great Blockheads as ever, only more proud and self-conceited.”

In essence, Franklin saw the various children receiving admittance into the Temple of Learning then later exiting into professions such as merchandising, travelling, or even nothing and while those emerged from this gate, there was another path he spoke of that lead to the “Temple of Theology.” This one he described as holding the painful and laborious businesses and also the path the majority of the crowd followed down. After he recanted this bizarre dream to Clericus, they mutually decided that this was an accurate representation of Harvard College.

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