William Hazlitt

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According to "On the Conduct of Life," what distinguishes home from school?

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One difference William Hazlitt points out to his son between home and school in "On the Conduct of Life" is that at home, the boy was the center of attention and used to getting his own way. At school, he will have to learn that he is not better or more important than others, and he will have to learn to compete and sometimes to give in to the preferences of someone else.

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In "On the Conduct of Life," William Hazlitt gives his son some critical advice about the boy's attitude toward and behavior at school. Part of this advice involves Hazlitt helping his son see that there are necessarily going to be differences between home and school.

For one thing, at home, the boy was often the center of attention and got his own way more often than not at home. He was really quite spoiled. But now, he is among other boys who are "bigger and stronger" than he is and rather more important than he is in the grand scheme of things. The boy must learn to let go of his "self-importance," for at school, he is not the center of the world will find that he must sometimes give in to the preferences of another. If he continues to put on airs, the others will only laugh at him. Now, he is among competitors, and he must learn how to compete fairly and settle differences amicably.

For Hazlitt's son, school will be a place in which he can learn to live in the larger world. Hazlitt advises his son not to look down upon other people or rail against everything that is wrong, but rather to face whatever comes with as much contentedness and innocence as possible. He should take a positive view as much as he can and recognize the good things around him.

Hazlitt goes on to explain to his son all the things he must concentrate on learning at school and how good it is that the school gives him that opportunity. Latin and French are especially important, as is dancing, for it teaches grace and how to present a good first impression. Yet just because the boy will be gaining knowledge, he should not become a snob about it nor think himself better than others. Rather, he should look upon his education as a gift.

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