Ah, #AdamSmith on education. Something to aggravate every. single. reader. Let’s go! (V.i.f) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Providing educational institutions is part of the duty of the sovereign, but those institutions can be made to produce some of the money needed to maintain them. We naturally do that already, because we pay teachers and endow colleges. (V.i.f.1–2)#WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
BUT Smith isn’t a fan of endowing schools.
Or at least, he has a lot of questions about how much the endowments have improved the education students get. (V.i.f.3)#WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
No matter the profession, we only work as hard as we have to.
An endowment means teachers don’t work as hard to be great teachers, because they are secure teachers. (V.i.f.4–5)#WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
This is why it would be better for teachers to be paid directly by individual students rather than to get salaries. Otherwise, like the professors at Oxford, they “give up altogether the pretense of teaching.” (V.i.f.6–8)#WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
If the faculty isn’t running the university, you *might* be able to get past this. But skeptical Smith is skeptical. And outside officers are liable to be insolent and indifferent. Like the French. (V.i.f.9) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
(Are you keeping score yet? Nine paragraphs in and Smith has already thrown hands at the university system, teachers in general, Oxford professors in particular, university trustees, AND the French. #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets)
Oh, and he doesn’t like residence requirements, scholarships, etc. either. Anything other than the merit and reputation of the teachers that draws students to a college diminishes the necessity of maintaining that merit and reputation. (V.i.f.10–12) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Smith, who began his career giving lectures on rhetoric, has FEELINGS about bad and lazy lecturers. And about the way colleges are arranged for the convenience of faculty, not the benefit of students. (V.i.f.14–15) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
The parts of education which are still managed by private institutions are done better. You might not learn to dance, fence, or ride *well* from a specialist school, but you will learn to do it. Same with basic math and literacy. (V.i.f.16) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
[Reminder, American Smithketeers: When Smith talks about “public schools” he doesn’t mean “funded by the public” as we do in the US. He means what we call private schools—”open to the public who can pay.”]
So, if you’ve read a lot of Smith—especially the History of Astronomy—the next section is a really interesting run down on why universities teach what they do, and what different kinds of learning are for. (V.i.f.19–34) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
The content isn’t the problem. The lack of diligence among the teachers means that students are not prepared “in good earnest to the real business of the world.” The colleges don’t “improve the understanding or mend the heart.” (V.i.f.32–35) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Smith doesn’t like the Grand Tour (18thC Gap Year), either. Of course you come home better, because you’ve gotten older while you were gone. But let’s not pretend you really learned languages or anything but dissipation and sloth. (V.i.f.36) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
And now...a brief history of education in Greece and Rome:

It was better. (V.i.f.38–46) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
The problem that Smith is getting at is one that’s familiar to anyone who’s been with #WealthOfTweets from the beginning. The universities have a monopoly, and it’s bad for all the same reasons every other monopoly is bad. (V.i.f.45) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
If such a monopoly didn’t exist, gentlemen would not enter the world completely ignorant, but it does and they do. (V.i.f.46) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
So far, so good. But now...Dammit. Smith’s going to extend that argument to say that because women’s education is private, it’s awesome.
😑And we...look, one of us wrote a whole thing about how wrong this is. Here. (V.i.f.47) adamsmithworks.org/documents/noth…
#WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Just because a thing isn’t bad in the way you’re worried about, doesn’t mean it can’t be bad in a completely different yet equally awful way! (V.i.f.47) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Given how bad the 18thC system for education is, would they be better off just not doing anything?
If they should do something, what should it look like? (V.i.f.48) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
We do need some kind of general education, and we need it because of the division of labor. That limits our activities and can make us hyperfocused, lazy, and stupid. Education helps make us fuller humans! (V.i.f.50) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
If we’re going to enjoy the enormous increase in wealth we get from the division of labor, we have a responsibility to mitigate its downsides—and education is one way we can do that. (V.i.f.50) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
In less developed societies where division of labor isn’t so extensive, this isn’t such a problem because people need to know how to do so many things.

In our society, though, you can literally make a living tweeting about #AdamSmith. (V.i.f.51) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Smith is obviously unabashedly classist in his outlines for what education should look like and for whom. 👎
That said, he thinks it’s much more important to pay attention to the education of the common people than to the wealthy.👍 (V.i.f.52) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
The wealthy always can and always have found ways to get the education they need. This is much less true for the poor who have less spare time to self-educate, no money to spend on education, and generally fairly constant labor. (V.i.f.53) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
But it would not be difficult/expensive to teach the poor to read, write, &calculate, which can be done before they’re old enough to work.
Parish charity schools are the answer, with changes in curriculum. (Smith likes #STEMeducation ). (V.i.f.55) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
You could enforce the education requirement by making people pass an exam before they could join a trade. And you could incentivize it by giving prizes and badges of distinction. (V.i.f.56-57) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
This is how the Greeks and Romans maintained the martial fitness of their people—requiring and incentivizing physical training. That martial spirit is a key part of national defense. (Oh hey! We’re back at the beginning of the chapter!) (V.i.f.58–59) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Smith really does not like cowards.
They are mutilated and deformed in their minds.
So even if sophisticated modern warfare means we have professional soldiers, it’s still good for people to have a martial spirit instead of cowardice. (V.i.f.60) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Educating people against cowardice is like protecting a nation against a loathsome and offensive disease. The uneducated are as mutilated and deformed as the cowardly. (V.i.f.61) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
And a well educated people is more rational, less disposed to violence, and more disposed to decency and order. And that’s good for everyone. (V.i.f.61) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Next time on #WealthOfTweets, you’re going to think #AdamSmith is talking about continuing education, but he’s talking about churches. See you tomorrow! #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with @AdamSmithWorks

@AdamSmithWorks Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @adamsmithworks

24 Feb
#AdamSmith isn’t just interested in educating kids. He knows we need #LifeLongLearning and #AdultEducation.
He doesn't mean university courses for adults, but rather “preparation for a better world to come.” (He means church.) (V.i.g.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
So we need to know how to best fund the clergy who provide this kind of education. Direct payments from their hearers? Tax? Tithe? Salary? (V.i.g.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Just as with other educators, clergy will be more zealous and hard working when they are paid directly by hearers rather than being guaranteed an income. This is why newer religions are so lively. (V.i.g.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Read 33 tweets
22 Feb
Yes, #adasmSmith says sovereigns should also maintain public institutions and public works that are good for society but that people won’t pay for on their own. (V.i.c.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
And yes, this category of expenses includes education, about which more later. We promise. (V.i.c.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
The first kind of public works Smith is concerned with are the kind that facilitate commerce in general. Like ROADS. (V.i.d.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Read 36 tweets
21 Feb
Yesterday #AdamSmith outlined the first duty of the sovereign—protecting the nation from attack. The second duty of the sovereign is protecting individuals from each other aka administering justice. (V.i.b.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Just as defense gets more complicated and expensive as societies develop, so does the process of administering justice. (V.i.b.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
In nations of hunters, where there is little private property, there’s little need for complex justice. We may do violence to each other out of anger or other passions, but we really don’t give in to that very often. (V.i.b.2) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Read 34 tweets
20 Feb
Today we start the last book of #AdamSmith's #WealthOfNations.


#WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Book Five of #WealthOfNations is all about the duties of the sovereign and how to pay for them. In this first part of chapter 1, we’re talking about the cost of defense. (V.i.a) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
The sovereign's duty to protect the country can only be done through military force, but how you get the money to pay for that military varies according to time, place, and circumstance. (V.i.a.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Read 27 tweets
19 Feb
Remember how #AdamSmith was going to explain the Mercantile and Agricultural systems? After 230 pages on the Mercantile system it’s finally time for the Agricultural! ...which gets 25 pages. (IV.ix) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
He’s got a pretty good reason for keeping this brief: A national political economy based entirely on agriculture has never existed except in the minds of French philosophers. Why spend a lot of time on it? (IV.ix.1–2) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
The French philosophers were 😍 with the idea of a purely agricultural system because of the favoritism shown to a purely mercantile system under Louis XIV and his minister Colbert. But both systems were out of balance.(IV.ix.3–4) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Read 38 tweets
18 Feb
We made it, everyone! It's the conclusion of the discussion of the mercantile system! (IV.viii.) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
The mercantile system tries to maintain the “balance of trade” by encouraging exports and discouraging imports. Counterintuively, sometimes that's done by encouraging imports. (IV.viii.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Manufacturers demand that their inputs be imported without duties or with bounties. Smith thinks that's a great start, but they should eliminate all duty on manufacturing imports, not just the ones demanded by the manufacturers. (IV.viii.2–3) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Read 26 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!