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What the Education of George Washington Tells Us

Mar 17, 2008
Compared to other leaders of his day, the education of George Washington was limited. Unlike his two older half-brothers, he did not go away to England for his education.

He didn't even go to college or study an additional language. George Washington's education came to an end when he was about 16 years old.

It is not for certain who taught Washington or where he attended school. The only thing that remains from the education of George Washington is his school papers. Through the papers, it can be determined that he has useful education that would help him later on in life.

But according to Washington himself, his education was "defective." Although the education of George Washington was something that was continued throughout his entire life, he was still self-conscious of his formal schooling ending when he was still in his early teens.

His favorite learning methods included studying the people he most respected, learning from others, and reading books. He also took the time to learn from his own experiences.

But let's go back to his school papers. Here's what we can conclude about the education of George Washington through these records:

1. His first school papers were dated 1741. If he was born in 1732, he was about 8 or 9 and could effectively read, write, and do math.

2. One of Washington's papers was a survey of his half-brother's turnip field. He obviously learned surveying in school. How would this skill help him later in life?

3. One of his papers showed that he studied geography, could calculate interest on money transactions, and could copy many legal forms that were used in Virginia at that time.

4. Even though Washington didn't go to England for schooling, he spent time learning manners. In one of his papers, he copied 110 rules people should follow for good behavior and good manners.

These rules were named "The Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation." It was these rules that must have enabled him to communicate so well with the leaders and people around him.

George Washington may have lamented having a truncated education, but what he had was clearly solid and useful. His education gave him the necessary skills to be a good leader for America.
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