There are but few in any town that are so wholly excused from labour as to give themselves entirely up to their studies, these being only such persons as discover from their childhood an extraordinary capacity and disposition for letters; yet their children, and a great part of the nation, both men and women, are taught to spend those hours in which they are not obliged to work in reading: and this they do through the whole progress of life. They have all their learning in their own tongue, which is both a copious and pleasant language, and in which a man can fully express his mind. It runs over a great tract of many countries, but it is not equally pure in all places. They had never so much as heard of the names of any of those philosophers that are so famous in these parts of the world, before we went among them; and yet they had made the same discoveries as the Greeks, both in music, logic, arithmetic, and geometry. But as they are almost in everything equal to the ancient philosophers, so they far exceed our modern logicians; for they have never yet fallen upon the barbarous niceties that our youth are forced to learn.
It is ordinary to have public lectures every morning before daybreak; at which none are obliged to appear but those who are marked out for literature; yet a great many, both men and women of all ranks, go to hear lectures of one sort or other, according to their inclinations. But if others, that are not made for contemplation, choose rather to employ themselves at that time in their trades, as many of them do, they are not hindered, but are rather commended, as men that take care to serve their country. After supper, they spend an hour in some diversion, in summer in their gardens, and in winter in the halls where they eat; where they entertain each other, either with music or discourse.
More described the Utopians' interest in astronomy and meteorology. They had no time for astrology or the kind of philosophical thinking that treated people as though they were abstract statistics or concepts rather than real. He appears an early advocate of what we now call ?lifelong learning? and stresses how the Utopians spent much of their free time in educational pursuits, particularly reading.
It is interesting that only the 'gifted and talented' were encouraged to do full-time academic study. How does that link with our school system now, where there is a realisation that 'non-academic' students should be able to do more vocational or creative study?
Image taken from: LUtopie de Thomas Morus
Creator: Thomas More
Publisher: Pierre van der Aa
Date created: 1715
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board