Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston. His father was Josiah Franklin and his mother was Abiah Folger. He was the 15th child and the 10th son out of 17 children. Benjamin Franklin, was an American printer, author, diplomat, philosopher and scientist who's many contributions to the American Revolution, and the newly formed federal government that followed, ranked him among the country's greatest statesmen.
He attended grammar school from age 8 to 10 and had some private writing and arithmetic lessons. At age 13, he was apprenticed to his older brother James, who had recently returned from England with a new printing press. Franklin learned the printing trade and devoted his spare time to advancement of his self-education. In 1721, Franklin's brother James founded the New England Courant in Boston.
In 1723, Franklin, age 15, was busy delivering newspapers by day and composing articles at night for the New England Courant. The articles were published anonymously, and won notice and acclaim for their pithy observations on the current scene. Franklin published the Pennsylvania Gazette and the General Magazine. Although both of the publications failed, Franklin later enjoyed much success as a writer, editor, and publisher of the New England Courant. His brother James was imprisoned and the paper appeared under Benjamin's name for publication.
In October 1727, Franklin and a number of his acquaintances organized a discussion group known as the Junto. This group examined and debated current scientific and political ideas and later became known as The American Philosophical Society. Believing in the importance of self-education, he founded the first public library in America in 1731 and chartered it in 1742 as the Philadelphia Library. He first published Poor Richard's Almanac in 1732, under the pen name of Richard Saunders. It contained maxims of wisdom like "A stitch in time saves nine" and "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise". The volume gained a wide and appreciative audience, and practical wisdom exerted a pervasive influence upon the American Character.
Franklin, believed that science could solve the problems of human life and that knowledge came from the senses, observation, and experimentation. He believed that knowledge should be applied to human affairs, the economy, and society. He valued formal education and schooling and he established a plan for an English-language grammar school in Philadelphia in 1749. The proposal was important because it exposed the stimulus for a new education to accompany the new republic.
The school would teach English, rather than Latin, and devise a curriculum that illustrated scientific and practical skills. It would provide knowledge that would prepare people who could make contributions to society, politics, government, and the occupations and professions. He wanted the school equipped with laboratories and workshops that contained books, maps, globes, etc., so that students would be aware of the relationships between learning and the environment around them. The teachers would emphasize both practical and ethical elements of the skills and subjects that they taught.
The English grammar school did not flourish. The headmaster did not want to implement the innovations required for the school's success. Franklin's educational proposals illustrated the emergent trends of the revolutionary and early national period and also anticipated the course of America's future in education. The scientific and utilitarian subjects and methods broke sharply with the classical tradition. This showed the English language would become the language of educated persons involved in building a new nation. His proposals pointed the way to a more comprehensive educational institution that would offer students a varied curriculum suited to the needs of an emerging and developing nation.
Benjamin Franklin died in 1790, but his career revealed that he was a self-made and largely self-educated person who won success because of his ambitions and common sense. A brief survey of his claims revealed his wide-ranging interests in developing English-language schools and helping people further their education. He devoted himself to organizing and joining societies that contributed to the good of the community and the new nation that we know today as The United States of America.
Prepared by Christina Meiss