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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/801

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EDUCATION IN ANCIENT EGYPT.

attained to higher offices than his humbler companions, there being certain offices open to him alone. But, with this single exception, the poor man's son could by efficiency accomplish the same results as the rich man's and the prince's son. The only test was efficiency, and this test was applied most rigidly and in a thoroughly democratic manner, giving all an equal chance.

It was, furthermore, left entirely to the option of a young man or his parents what occupation he should fit himself for. If the father was a treasury official, a priest, or an officer, it did not necessarily follow that the son should also be a treasury official, a priest or an officer; nor yet, if the father was a merchant, mechanic, or farmer, did it necessarily follow that the son should also be a merchant, mechanic, or farmer. In some families we find several members in the government service; while others, having no titles, were private citizens engaged in civic pursuits. As a further confirmation of this fact, we have a didactic poem, written by a certain Daauf, in which he advises his son Pepy to become a scribe—i.e., a government official. In this exceedingly interesting poem he sketches the misery of all that are not in the service. His sketches are of course prejudiced, as he seeks to influence his son to enter the government service; but, nevertheless, the poem plainly shows that the choice of occupation was left to the young man. The poem closes with a couplet that was often quoted in later writings:

"Lo, there is no class that is not governed;
Only the scribe; he is a governor!"

Egyptians were stern utilitarians, and thus they esteemed learning, not for its own sake, but merely for the practical advantages it conferred upon its happy possessor. They were not intellectualists and idealists, like the ancient Greeks, nor yet were they seekers after truth, like our modern scholars. They were practical men, and sought to attain learning for practical ends. They devoted themselves to their studies in order to fit themselves for the government service. They argued much in the line of Daauf's old poem. The burden of all they have written on the subject is always the same: The scribe alone is free; he need do no manual labor, but leads a pleasant and agreeable life; the government provides for him. And, then, to think of all the honors he may attain to! The diligent scribe is sure to rise, and may even gain princely rank. But to attain this he must be diligent. "Work, work, study, study, grind, grind," is also a continuous burden of this class of writings.

Boys intended for the government service entered the school at a very early age. The course of instruction was very simple. The first care of the teacher was to initiate the young scribe into the mysteries of the art of writing. After he had mastered the