The Society of Useful Knowledge

The Society for Useful Knowledge                       
How Benjamin Franklin and Friends
 Brought the Enlightenment to America 

Jonathon Lyons
Posted: July 27, 2013

The Society for Useful Knowledge: How Benjamin Franklin and Friends Brought the Enlightenment to AmericaBenjamin Franklin and his contemporaries brought the Enlightenment to America--an intellectual revolution that laid the foundation for the political one that followed. With the "first Drudgery" of settling the American colonies now well and truly past, Franklin announced in 1743, it was high time that the colonists set about improving the lot of humankind through collaborative inquiry. From Franklin's idea emerged the American Philosophical Society, an association hosted in Philadelphia and dedicated to the harnessing of man's intellectual and creative powers for the common good. The animus behind the Society was and is a disarmingly simple one-that the value of knowledge is directly proportional to its utility. This straightforward idea has left a profound mark on American society and culture and on the very idea of America itself-and through America, on the world as a whole.

From celebrated historian of knowledge Jonathan Lyons comes The Society for Useful Knowledge, telling the story of America's coming-of-age through its historic love affair with practical invention, applied science, and self-reliance. Offering fresh, original portraits of figures like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, and the inimitable, endlessly inventive Franklin, Lyons gives us vital new perspective on the American founding. He illustrates how the movement for useful knowledge is key to understanding the flow of American society and culture from colonial times to our digital present.


Really liked this book. It was filled with a lot of information about the history of our country before the revolution. One of the topics is how Benjamin Franklin along with a couple of other men. Thought that a new type of school should be started. One that focused on English, reading, math and then at some point history, astronomy. He also thought that a school should also teach trade works, glass making, printing, leather making, wood working etc. He felt along with some other men that this would free up the colonies from Britain. This was 20 years before the war. Once the school came into place a he had a set of guide lines and came up with an elected board from the area. He still felt there should be some type of control. His main ideas were to have no teaching of classics, Latin, Greek, for example. That middle class and lower would be provided free education. This worked for a short time for after he got this started he was given an award from a college in Germany and another one in France. For his work in science, (electricity). By the time he came back the school was changed by the board, to teaching the classics and not teaching the middle class. He wrote about the waste the students will learn nothing that will be useful for them to grow, build, or make things. His whole ideas were taken over and his friends who also thought liked he did had passed on. He still saw that the colonies were too dependent on England and encourage people to start making their own items. By the time the war started there was a company making cloths, a few ship builders, one company working on gun powder, and of more tools were being made. So they did not have to pay taxes, or duties. Which he wrote to people is another tax. I could still go on but you should read this book. It is a book that should be used in school.

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