Thursday, July 9, 2009

Every Child is Capable of Much

LET a father, then, as soon as his son is born, conceive first of all the best possible hopes of him, for he will thus grow the more solicitous about his improvement from the very beginning. It is a complaint without foundation that "to very few people is granted the faculty of comprehending what is imparted to them, and that most, through dullness of understanding, lose their labor and their time." On the contrary, you will find the greater number of men both ready in conceiving and quick in learning, since such quickness is natural to man. As birds are born to fly, horses to run, and wild beasts to show fierceness, so to us peculiarly belong activity and sagacity of understanding; hence the origin of the mind is thought to be from heaven. 2. But dull and unteachable persons are no more produced in the course of nature than are persons marked by monstrosity and deformities, such are certainly but few. It will be a proof of this assertion that among boys, good promise is shown in the far greater number; and if it passes off in the progress of time, it is manifest that it was not natural ability, but care, that was wanting. 3. But one surpasses another, you will say, in ability. I grant that this is true, but only so far as to accomplish more or less; there is no one who has not gained something by study.
Quintilian Book 1 Chapter 1

My paraphrase:

  • Parents' high hopes for their children are founded on truth. "Quickness is natural to man; the origin of the mind is thought to be of heaven."
  • Children are not born dull and unteachable; if they become that way, it is because of things that happen later in their lives.
  • Children do vary in ability, but even the less able ones can benefit from study.

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