Teach PA History
Two Men Named Ben: Historic Roots of Education in Pennsylvania
Equipment & Supplies
  • Computer and Projector (if accessible) Student computers or a laptop cart (if accessible)


Day One

1. Start the lesson by posting the images of Rush and Franklin Benjamin Franklinand Dr. Benjamin Rushon the board (either a printout or through your computer projector). Underneath each corresponding photo, write the first quote each man wrote in their vision of education in Pennsylvania:

"The business of education has acquired a new complexion by the independence of our country." -Dr. Benjamin Rush

"The good Education of Youth has been esteemed by wise Men in all Ages, as the surest Foundation of the Happiness both of private Families and of Commonwealths." - Benjamin Franklin

2. Next, ask the students to think about what each man is saying and have them translate each quote into their own words. This can be placed in their notes.

3. After several minutes have the students turn to a partner and share their answers with their classmate. Reconvene the class and solicit from students what they learned from their discussion with their partner. Students should not read their own answer, but speak about what their partner said.

4. After students around the room provide a few examples, divide the class into two groups. Each member of the first group should receive a copy of Student Handout 1-Dr. Benjamin Rush's Views on Education. Each should also receive a copy of Student Worksheet 1-Dr. Benjamin Rush's Vision of Education in Pennsylvania. The members of the second group should each receive a copy of Student Handout 2-Benjamin Franklin's Views on Education and a copy of Student Worksheet 2-Benjamin Franklin's Vision of Education in Pennsylvania.

5. Explain to the students that they are going to examine the documents and identify what each man advocated in regard to the categories on the handouts (health and diet, languages to be learned, subjects to be studied, etc.). Read over each category with the students and check to make sure everyone understands what they are looking for regarding each topic. Emphasize that students must quote the document in support of what they found.

6. Once the students have finished their worksheets, reconvene the class and distribute Student Worksheet 3-Comparisons and Contrasts of Rush and Franklin.

7. Once Student Worksheet 3 is distributed, lead the class through a comparison and contrast of the two men's visions. As the first group identifies what Rush offered on each point, have the Franklin group fill in their sheets in the appropriate sections. When the roles are reversed and the Franklin group is offering their answers, have the Rush group fill in their Franklin side. If needed, have your teacher guide on hand to verify answers from the class.

8. Once the tables on the handouts are completed, ask the students to consider what historical events surrounded the men as they composed their thoughts on education. Answers should include the American Revolution against Britain and the effort to establish a brand new democracy. Emphasize that if a democracy required the participation of all citizens, it would succeed more with an educated citizenry.

9. Next, ask the students what events in world history today shape how our education system operates. Answers may include technological advancements, economic competition with China and India, the impact of terrorism, the role of immigration, and the like. Make the connection with students that just as historical events affected Rush and Franklin, so too do current events shape our leaders today.

10. Now ask the students if their ideas about education match up with Rush's and Franklin's. Ask the students to consider why they agree or disagree. Instruct students to consider current events and societal conditions which exist today that may help explain their beliefs. How may these conditions compare with or differ from those Rush and Franklin faced? Have them refer to the table from Student Worksheet 3 for reference as to which topics they should consider in their assessments. This can be simply an informal discussion to spur their thinking and establish connections.

11. Finally, assign the homework. Have the students select one topic from the list covered in class between Rush and Franklin and compare and contrast their ideas. The students should then include their own ideas on the topic and explain their similarity or difference in opinion by taking into consideration the historical events and societal conditions of today and of the Enlightenment era of Rush and Franklin. Use the attached rubric to assess the papers.
Back to Top