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A Manual of Education

The few selections below are offered as a specimen page
of a little book which I have in course of preparation.

Every man has somewhere in the back of his head the wreck
of a thing which he calls his education. My book is
intended to embody in concise form these remnants of
early instruction.

Educations are divided into splendid educations, thorough
classical educations, and average educations. All very
old men have splendid educations; all men who apparently
know nothing else have thorough classical educations;
nobody has an average education.

An education, when it is all written out on foolscap,
covers nearly ten sheets. It takes about six years of
severe college training to acquire it. Even then a man
often finds that he somehow hasn't got his education just
where he can put his thumb on it. When my little book of
eight or ten pages has appeared, everybody may carry his
education in his hip pocket.

Those who have not had the advantage of an early training
will be enabled, by a few hours of conscientious
application, to put themselves on an equal footing with
the most scholarly.

The selections are chosen entirely at random.


Astronomy teaches the correct use of the sun and the
planets. These may be put on a frame of little sticks
and turned round. This causes the tides. Those at the
ends of the sticks are enormously far away. From time to
time a diligent searching of the sticks reveals new
planets. The orbit of a planet is the distance the stick
goes round in going round. Astronomy is intensely
interesting; it should be done at night, in a high tower
in Spitzbergen. This is to avoid the astronomy being
interrupted. A really good astronomer can tell when a
comet is coming too near him by the warning buzz of the
revolving sticks.


Aztecs: A fabulous race, half man, half horse, half
mound-builder. They flourished at about the same time as
the early Calithumpians. They have left some awfully
stupendous monuments of themselves somewhere.

Life of Caesar: A famous Roman general, the last who ever
landed in Britain without being stopped at the custom
house. On returning to his Sabine farm (to fetch something),
he was stabbed by Brutus, and died with the words "Veni,
vidi, tekel, upharsim" in his throat. The jury returned
a verdict of strangulation.

Life of Voltaire: A Frenchman; very bitter.

Life of Schopenhauer: A German; very deep; but it was
not really noticeable when he sat down.

Life of Dante: An Italian; the first to introduce the
banana and the class of street organ known as "Dante's

Peter the Great,
Alfred the Great,
Frederick the Great,
John the Great,
Tom the Great,
Jim the Great,
Jo the Great, etc., etc.

It is impossible for a busy man to keep these apart. They
sought a living as kings and apostles and pugilists and
so on.


Botany is the art of plants. Plants are divided into
trees, flowers, and vegetables. The true botanist knows
a tree as soon as he sees it. He learns to distinguish
it from a vegetable by merely putting his ear to it.


Natural Science treats of motion and force. Many of its
teachings remain as part of an educated man's permanent
equipment in life. Such are:

(a) The harder you shove a bicycle the faster it will
go. This is because of natural science.

(b) If you fall from a high tower, you fall quicker and
quicker and quicker; a judicious selection of a tower
will ensure any rate of speed.

(c) If you put your thumb in between two cogs it will go
on and on, until the wheels are arrested, by your
suspenders. This is machinery.

(d) Electricity is of two kinds, positive and negative.
The difference is, I presume, that one kind comes a little
more expensive, but is more durable; the other is a
cheaper thing, but the moths get into it.

Stephen Leacock