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Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Topic: Predicaments of Early Republican LifeTopic: ReligionTopic: PoliticsTopic: ExpansionTopic: Equality
Topic: Predicaments of Early Republican Life
Overview of Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Resource Menu: Predicaments of Early Republican Life
Text 1. Benjamin Franklin
Text 2. Venture Smith
Text 3. Washington Irving
Text 4. Royall Tyler
Text 5. Benjamin Rush
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Text 6. Noah Webster

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Reading Guide
5.  Benjamin Rush, "Of the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic," from A Plan for the Establishment of Public Schools and the Diffusion of Knowledge in Pennsylvania, 1786
   Benjamin Rush

Here Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, sets forth a way "to adapt our modes of teaching to the peculiar form of our government." His plan reflects the tremendous faith the early republic, as a creation of the Enlightenment, placed in education. By establishing "places of education"—he also calls them "nurseries of virtue"—in every part of the state, the Pennsylvania legislature can usher in a new golden age. However, the authoritarianism of his plan reflects the early republic's fear of the freedom that is abroad in the new nation. Rush recognizes that the Revolution has created an especially promising but dangerous moment. "The minds of our people have not as yet lost the yielding texture they acquired by the heat of the late Revolution," he writes. "The spirit of liberty now pervades every part of the state," and "the influence of error and deception are now of short duration." But the moment is fleeting and may soon yield to "improper rivalship" and "party spirit." Like Franklin, he fears the disputation of faction and is eager to fix the American character before it becomes corrupted. 7 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  In Rush's view, what is the purpose of education?
  ·  How does Rush's view of education compare with Franklin's?
  ·  How does Rush balance order and freedom?
  ·  How does The Contrast reflect Rush's hopes and fears about the education of young people?
  ·  Would a Rushian education turn The Contrast's Jonathan into Manly?
  ·  How does his view of Europe compare with Tyler's?

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Topic Framing Questions
  •  What was the nature of the society that formed in the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution?
  •  What did the citizens of the early republic hope for?
  •  What did they fear?
  •  How did they seek to balance freedom and order?

Toolbox: Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Predicaments | Religion | Politics | Expansion | Equality

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