George Washington on Education

washington chernowThe following is an excerpt from Ron Chernow’s excellent biography of George Washington.

One can’t help but surmise that Washington’s life would have been vastly different had he attended college. He lacked the liberal education that then distinguished gentlemen, setting him apart from such illustrious peers as Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, and Madison. He would always seem more provincial than other founders, his knowledge of European culture more secondhand. A university education would have spared him a gnawing sense of intellectual inadequacy. We know that he regretted his lack of Latin, Greek, and French—the major intellectual adornments of his day—since he lectured wards in later years on their importance. The degree to which Washington dwelt upon the transcendent importance of education underscores the stigma that he felt about having missed college. As president, he lectured a young relative about to enter college that “every hour misspent is lost forever” and that “future years cannot compensate for lost days at this period of your life.”

Ron Chernow, Washington (The Penguin Press: New York, 2010), 12.


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