Educating Students in Windbaggery

George Turnbull, Observations Upon Liberal Education

One exercise should be daily to write a page of English, and after that to examine every word by the grammar rules, and in every sentence they have composed, to oblige them to give an account of the English syntax and construction. Thus an habit would soon be acquired, and they would do it of course. All affected words and harsh transpositions should be noted; every phrase not used in good company exploded; harsh metaphors, which have neither a peculiar light or force, be discarded: Metaphors are a kind of embroidery, which do admirably on proper occasions, but shew a tawdry mind, if it scruples to appear, unless dressed in such finery. Another exercise should be obliging them to speak every day in unwritten thoughts on any subject in English. Let them read an oration in Tully or Livy; let them read it to themselves in Latin as often as they please, then shut the book, and speak the sense of it extempore in unpremeditated words. A little use will make it most agreeably easy: and what a habit is this for a man of quality? Begin with a fable of Phaedrus, thence to a short speech in an historian, you’ll be amazed how soon the would enter into the spirit of Cicero, and plead the cause of Ligarius with his ardour, and feel what they utter. This is the ambition I would have you pursue: afford to gentlemen this distinguishing, this necessary education, and become thus a nursery of state orators.

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