But how any one’s being put into a mix’d herd of unruly boys, and there learning to wrangle at trap, or rook at span-farthing, fits him for civil conversation or business, I do not see. And what qualities are ordinarily to be got from such a troop of play-fellows as schools usually assemble together from parents of all kinds, that a father should so much covet, is hard to divine. I am sure, he who is able to be at the charge of a tutor at home, may there give his son a more genteel carriage, more manly thoughts, and a sense of what is worthy and becoming, with a greater proficiency in learning into the bargain, and ripen him up sooner into a man, than any at school can do. Not that I blame the schoolmaster in this, or think it to be laid to his charge. The difference is great between two or three pupils in the same house, and three or four score boys lodg’d up and down: for let the master’s industry and skill be never so great, it is impossible he should have fifty or an hundred scholars under his eye, any longer than they are in the school together: Nor can it be expected, that he should instruct them successfully in any thing but their books; the forming of their minds and manners requiring a constant attention, and particular application to every single boy, which is impossible in a numerous flock, and would be wholly in vain (could he have time to study and correct every one’s particular defects and wrong inclinations) when the lad was to be left to himself, or the prevailing infection of his fellows, the greatest part of the four and twenty hours.
But fathers, observing that fortune is often most successfully courted by bold and bustling men, are glad to see their sons pert and forward betimes; take it for an happy omen that they will be thriving men, and look on the tricks they play their school-fellows, or learn from them, as a proficiency in the art of living, and making their way through the world. But I must take the liberty to say, that he that lays the foundation of his son’s fortune in virtue and good breeding, takes the only sure and warrantable way. And ’tis not the waggeries or cheats practis’d amongst school-boys, ’tis not their roughness one to another, nor the well-laid plots of robbing an orchard together, that make an able man; but the principles of justice, generosity, and sobriety, join’d with observation and industry, qualities which I judge school-boys do not learn much of one another. And if a young gentleman bred at home, be not taught more of them than he could learn at school, his father has made a very ill choice of a tutor. Take a boy from the top of a grammar-school, and one of the same age bred as he should be in his father’s family, and bring them into good company together, and then see which of the two will have the more manly carriage, and address himself with the more becoming assurance to strangers. Here I imagine the school-boy’s confidence will either fail or discredit him; and if it be such as fits him only for the conversation of boys, he were better to be without it.