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"An American Selection of Lessons in Reading and Speaking"

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The educational and linguistic theories of Noah Webster (1758-1843) epitomized the ways in which Americans constructed a new identity for themselves and their nation in this period. Webster believed that language should reflect the new republican age of virtue and simplicity. His American dictionary, for example, rejected older English spellings of various words for simpler American spellings, such as substituting "music" for musick." Webster also insisted that American schools realize and act upon the responsibility of teaching the rising generation of young republicans. He wrote and published some of the most successful American textbooks of the period, including "An American Selection of Lessons in Reading and Speaking." Convinced of the importance of teaching young scholars of the words and deeds of revolutionary heroes, Webster quoted the French writer Mirabeau: "Begin with the Infant in his Cradle: Let the first Word he lisps be WASHINGTON." It was said of Webster that he "taught millions to read and not one to sin."


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