Saturday, February 28, 2009
Changes in Education
Recently I've been reading McGuffey's Sixth Eclectic Reader, originally published in 1879. My grandfather may have used it as a student. Back in his time few kids went beyond the eighth grade, but he told us he'd read Shakespeare in elementary school so I shouldn't have been surprised at the reading level of this book, but I was. Many adults would find some of the selections in this reader difficult today and many older grade school students would find them unintelligible.
It's interesting to see how our language has changed in a century and a quarter. For example, the authors of various selections are described as having graduated "at" rather than "from" colleges and universities. Selections in the reader, chosen to be used for practice in elocution, are often a bit pompous, but usually interesting and informative.
Some selections in the reader are from classical works I read in college, but that doesn't mean students in the 1800s were more intelligent than kids are today. After all, they had less history and science to learn about in school and most things available for children to read for pleasure back then had been written for adults, so kids were used to more complex language.
As an adult, I enjoyed the reader and have learned a lot about the world and attitudes in the 1800s from reading it.