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Nicholas Ferroni Headshot

Are You Smarter Than an 18th Century 10-Year-Old?

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I hate to crush your ego, but you're not. It's safe to assume that most adults, excluding geniuses, are not smarter than a ten year old who lived during the 18th century
(especially if that ten year old was one of our Founding Fathers). Consider that entertainment was pretty much limited to reading, writing and the occasional "tar and feathering," and the word technology didn't even exist yet in the English language.

Many other factors played into why people were far more educated at an earlier age. For one, life expectancy was late forties, which means you were going through your mid-life crisis in your mid-twenties. Therefore, being ten was the equivalent of being in your twenties today, which explains why our founders started college around the same age a teenager starts high school today.

John Adams learned Latin at the age most of us today are still learning the difference between "their" and "there." He entered Harvard at sixteen and was practicing law by his early twenties. He also was able to speak Greek and Hebrew, and he even learned French.

At age nine, more than twenty years before he would author the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was already studying and speaking Latin, Greek and French. He entered the College of William and Mary by sixteen where he studied mathematics and philosophy, and learned to play the violin in his free time. If he decided to omit from his résumé his writing credentials and the fact he was president, he would still make most modern scholars look like first grade drop outs.

George Washington, the "Father of the Country," was also the least educated of the founders, which the others would often point out and joke about (but never to his face). But, don't get too excited yet thinking that you "might" be as educated as Washington. Though he only received up to what was considered an elementary education, we can't forget that what they considered "elementary" education then would today likely be considered at least a college education. Washington often quoted Latin and Greek phrases, and was as very well read in philosophy as the other founders.

If you still have any ego left at this point, I failed to mention that, at fourteen, John Quincy Adams accompanied an Ambassador to Russia because he was one of the only people who could speak Russian. These examples are one of the main reasons why I strongly believe that the future of education lies in our past.