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Celebrating Ben Franklin’s Tercentenary:
‘Worlds of Learning’

Ben FranklinThe Penn Library marks Benjamin Franklin's 300th birthday with an exhibit on the  history of Philadelphia-area schools - Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania: Worlds of Learning in the Age of Franklin. Organized by Rare Book and Manuscript, the exhibit is on view now through May 31, in the Rosenwald Gallery, 6th floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library.

In 1749, Benjamin Franklin published his educational call to arms, Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania (Almanac January 24, 2006). In it, Franklin set forth a radically new template for educating students, one that stressed social utility, secular independence, and an English language-based curriculum. This slim pamphlet led to the creation of the University of Pennsylvania, the fourth oldest institution of higher education in North America.

But what were schools like in the early Delaware Valley? Who received an education, how, and where? Who were the teachers, and what was taught? Drawing on the collections of the Penn Library, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and other Philadelphia-area libraries, museums, and schools, this exhibit surveys the educational landscape of the period and investigates the importance, originality, and ongoing relevance of Franklin's vision. It includes original documents, printed books, and artifacts, as well as photographs of surviving school buildings. The exhibit is accompanied by a multi-media website (http://benjaminfranklin300.library.upenn.edu/), a printed catalogue, and a series of public programs on the history and present state of education in America.

The exhibit highlights Benjamin Franklin's contributions to education in the area, including the founding of the University of Pennsylvania. The exhibit also puts Franklin's vision into perspective with glimpses of the educational environment in the Philadelphia region in the 18th century at schools such as Germantown Academy, Episcopal Academy and the Westtown School.

Examples of what students did in school, how they learned and what they learned is on display. The exhibit includes a three-dimensional handmade cloth needlework globe made by a Westtown School student in 1817, an alphabet chart from the early 1800s and a gallery of photos of buildings that once functioned as schooling sites, such as the humble one-room schoolhouse of the Beggarstown School on Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia. 

Also on display is the most recent major addition to Penn's Rare Book and Manuscript Library - a book printed by Benjamin Franklin in 1750 and believed to be the only copy that exists. The Friendly Instructor was written as a guide for proper conduct for young boys and girls. Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturdays, noon-4 p.m.

The Friendly Companion

Tercentenary Symposium: February 24

Accompanying this exhibit is the symposium, If Ben Had Had His Way, on February 24,  4-6 p.m., Class of '55 Room, 2nd floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library.

Near the end of his life, Benjamin Franklin concluded that the academy he helped found, which became the University of Pennsylvania, had consistently violated its charter. That charter advanced a controversial view of the university's relation to tradition, class, citizenship, and speculative knowledge. Where does the academy stand on these matters today? Where would Ben Franklin have liked the academy to stand?

Panelists include Rebecca Bushnell, SAS Dean; Peter Conn, Andrea Mitchell Professor of English; Peter Stallybrass, Annenberg Professor in the Humanities; Michael Zuckerman, professor of history; and the first-prize winner, to be named in this month, of the undergraduate student essay contest, If Ben Had Had His Way.

This symposium is presented by the Penn Humanities Forum and the Marvin and Sybil Weiner Fund of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library.

Registration required: call (215) 573-8280 or register online at http://humanities.sas.upenn.edu/05-06/BF300_sympos.shtml. This event is free. The public, including secondary school students are invited. See www.upenn.edu/secretary for more events.

 



 
  Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 22, February 14, 2006

ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS:

Tuesday,
February 14, 2006
Volume 52 Number 22
www.upenn.edu/almanac

 

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