Plutarch, on the cost of miseducation

“And yet many fathers there are, who so love their money and hate their children, that, lest it should cost them more than they are willing to spare to hire a good schoolmaster for them, they rather choose such persons to instruct their children as they are worth; thereby beating down the market, that they may purchase ignorance cheap. It was, therefore, a witty and handsome jeer which Aristippus bestowed on a sottish father, who asked him what he would take to teach his child. He answered, ‘A thousand drachmas.’ When the other cried out: ‘Oh, Hercules, what a price you ask! for I can buy a slave at that rate.’ ‘Do so, then,’ said the philosopher, ‘and you shall have two slaves instead of one—your son for one, and him you buy for another…’

“For when such sons are arrived at man’s estate, and, through contempt of a sound and orderly way of living, precipitate themselves into all manner of disorderly and servile pleasures, then will those parents dearly repent of their own neglect of their children’s education, when it is too late to amend; and vex themselves, even to distraction, at their vicious courses.”

Plutarch, “The Training of Chldren,” from The Ancient History Sourcebook at Fordham University  © Paul Halsall, June 1998 halsall@murray.fordham.edu

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