Fifty or sixty years ago, in a top Scottish country school only one boy learned geography. None studied grammar. A few girls learned the multiplication tables and were instructed in the mysteries of adding and subtraction, at which their fathers shook their heads.
They “didna’ know what lassies wanted wi’ coontin’.” If they could read their bible and have the catechism and proofs off by heart, they were crowned with human learning.
The board schools of to-day give a much wider and more solid education than this but farmers far from town have often little choice of schools. The common way is to send the girls to a village school if there is one near enough or employ a governess and then, if it can be afforded, to send them to a boarding school for one or more years “to finish.”
In preference to a boarding school, I would choose an academy or high school where science and history are taught in a business-like manner. More particularly science. The value of the relation of science to agriculture is often disputed but, if it be desirable for a young farmer to understand so much of the elements of science as will help him to work his farm more intelligently, then I think it equally desirable for his wife to possess the same knowledge.
If every girl were taught at school at least the elementary natural laws, she will be more likely to manage her dairy well, although she never go to dairy school to understand what was written there for her learning in so many books and papers.
You must not imagine that I think that girls educated in the manner suggested are likely to prove any the more attractive to young men, even to the most scientific of young farmers. Very far from it. Neither are they likely to be the more attractive for being skilful housewives. A distinguished woman who in her day was noted for her learning, wrote to her daughter that any kind of superior knowledge was regarded as a deformity in a woman which she ought to hide as carefully as she would a wooden leg.
But no sensible parent ever educates his daughter with a view solely or even chiefly to what may appear pleasing in the eyes of a young man. So my dear girl, learn as much as ever you can and hide your knowledge carefully from the captious eyes of mankind. All sensible and modest people of whatever sex or age keep their little scraps of knowledge carefully hidden for use and not for show.