What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Mr. Garner, from his approved Conduct in the teaching of Youth, having had many Solicitations to open an Academy …”
Joseph Garner was a well-known teacher who regularly advertised his schools and academies in Philadelphia’s newspapers. Although he addressed the topics students could expect to learn under his tutelage, he also emphasized the environment in which they would study. Students needed to be in surroundings, Garner suggested, that would contribute to their intellectual and moral growth.
Consider his description of the boarding school and its amenities in today’s advertisement. “The House is very extensive,” he proclaimed, so extensive “as to admit of many Boarders, without interrupting each other in their private Studies.” Pupils undertook those studies in “very elegant” rooms. Such surroundings lent themselves well “to the Design of carrying polite Literature into Execution.”
Garner understood that the youth he instructed also needed respite from their studies on occasion. To that end, the “commodious House” had “a large Yard, fit for the Relaxation of Youth after School Hours.” He assured parents of prospective students that this yard was “well inclosed.” Garner safeguarded the children entrusted to his care from the perils of the city, “where Vice is only too often so predominant.” Even when his pupils took a break from reading “polite Literature,” Garner provided an environment that nurtured morality and virtue rather than allowing them “the Liberty of the Streets.” In other words, he kept a close eye on his charges and did not allow them to potentially find trouble as they went gallivanting around the busy port city.
Garner also sought other teachers to assist instructing students. His list of qualifications placed greater emphasis on personal attributes than expertise. In addition to being “well versed in the Languages,” teachers also needed to be “of moral Behaviour, and unexceptionable Character.”
For Garner and the parents who enrolled their children in his academy, the purpose of education was more than the accumulation of knowledge. It was also intended to shape youth into moral men.