Start with the Best Teachers

Vergerio, de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis, XLIX:

“It seems right here to lay out some definitions of learning and intelligence and the types of each. In which it should first be noted that it is proper to receive not only those lessons which are given to advanced students, but even the very first elements of knowledge from the best teachers; and, that it is proper not to waste time on any random authors, but to look into the best ones. For this reason Philipp, the king of the Macedonians, wanted his son Alexander to learn his first lessons from Aristotle; for this reason, the ancient Romans took care that when they sent their children to school, they would first be brought up on Vergil. Each of these choices was made with the best reason. For, that which is instilled into young minds will set deep roots, and will not easily be removed by any force afterward.

Therefore, if students accustom themselves to the best authors at the beginning, they will always have them foremost and will always use them as guides. If, however, they should drink in any draught of error along the way, they will require twice as much time in their education – they must first get rid of their errors, and then they can partake of true learning. For this reason Timotheus, a famous musician in his own time, who was ordered into exile from Sparta because he increased the number of strings on the cithara and discovered new musical modes, used to charge a fixed price from those students who had never learned anything before; yet he charged a double price from those who had learned something from other teachers.”

Ac de doctrinis quidem et ingeniis ac utrorumque generibus ita videtur definiendum. In quibus est id ante omnia animadvertendum, quod non modo maiora illa praecepta quae provectoribus traduntur, sed et prima quoque atrium elementa ab optimis praeceptoribus accipere convenit, et ex auctoribus librorum, non quibuslibet passim immorari, sed optimis. Qua ratione et Philippus, rex Macedonum, primas litteras ab Aristotele discere Alexandrum voluit, et veteres Romanos suos liberos scholae mancipantes in Vergilio primum erudiri curabant; optima utrique ratione. Nam quod teneris mentibus insitum est, alte radices mittit, nec facile postea divelli ulla vi potest. Ergo si melioribus initio assueverint, illos habebunt praecipuos et veluti ducibus semper utentur. Sin vero errores ullos imbiberint, his duplici tempore opus erit, primum ut errores excutiant, ac deinde ut vera praecepta condiscant. Quamobrem Timotheus, musicus suo tempore illustris, qui ob multiplicatas in cithara chordas et novorum modorum adinventionem Sparta iussus est exulare, ab discipulis quidem, qui nihil apud alios profecissent, certam paciscebatur mercedem, ab iis vero, qui ex aliis quippiam edidicerant, duplam exigebat.

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