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Art. I. Systematic Education, or, elementary Instruction
in the various Departments of Literature and Science ; with practicul Rules for studying each Branch of useful Know. ledge. By the Rev. W. Shepherd, the Rev. J. Joyce, and the Rev. Lant Carpenter, L.L.D). 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 540, 565.
il. Ils. 6d. Longman & Co. 1815. THE general diffusion of knowledge, and the eagerness with which extensive information is sought after by the middling, and, perhaps, stil! more by the higher classes of society, form a very decided, and, certainly, a very respectable feature in the character of the present age.
But whatever becomes the object of popular approbation and universal pursuit, will always be found to acquire a strong tendency to dieviate into abuses and absurdities; and this has proved to be the case, even with the thirst after knowledge. It has led to mistaken notions, as to the proper end of education, and, consequently, to mistaken systems of education; and by inducing men to grasp at too many objects, it has weakened their bold over what they may acquire ; for it is no less true of intellectual acquisitions, than of the conquests niade by monarchs, that
“ Extended empire, like expanded gold,
Exchanges solid strength for feeble splendor," “ The end of learning,” says Milton, “ is to repair the ruins of our first parents, by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love hin, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest, by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith, makes up the highest perfection *."
* Of Education. Prose Works. vol. i. p. 142.
Here Here the proper object of education is correctly and fairly stated. A more sublime object could not have been set before us. By considering how far any pursuit is likely to contribute to this main end, we shall arrive at the best criterion of the utility of such a pursuit.
The religious instruction, which every Christian parent must know it to be his duty to bestow; and the peculiar or profes. sional knowledge by which individuals are enabled to fill with pro. priety the stations allotted to them; or, in the plain old language of our catechism, to do their duty in that state of life to which it has pleased God to call them; are, obviously enough, necessary parts of a system of education, where the object proposed is such as was lately stated. But, farther, our attainment of the desired end will be particularly promoted ; first, by all such pursuits as tend to give a fondness for intellectual, rather than sensual pleasures; for innocent and accessible enjoyments, ra. ther than the gratifications of ambition, or those which only the rich and great can procure ; or, secondly, by those studies which have a tendency to impart to the judgment that accuracy which is necessary to enable us to decide what is our duty; and that I strength which must co-operate with the influence promised to us from above, to overcome the effects of passion, and to keep us steadily to our duty, when we do see it. And here it will be a great advantage, if the method of pursuing those studies, which properly belong to the first class, as conducive to the formation of a correct laste, be such as may, at the same time, contribute to what is the more direct object of the second, namely, the strengthening of the reasoning powers. And this is the peculiar merit of the study of the Latin and Greek languages, which is therefore so properly made the principal employment of our boyish years. The exquisite models of composition which exist in these languages, affording more correct specimens of sound taste than are to be found in any other, inust, when made the subject of daily attention, impart something of the spirit in which they were written. And we will venture to say, that the method in which these languages are taught in our public schools, is, notwithstanding the abuse so often bestowed upon it, excel. lently calculated for promoting the gradual enlargement of the mental powers. The memory is kept constantly employed, and grows with its employment, when the other faculties have as yet scarcely acquired sufficient strength to be brought into action. The boy next comes, with the rules stored up in his memory, to their application to cases gradually increasing in difficulty in a
just proportion to the increase of his skill. His labor is, at the beginning of this period, merely mechanical; but for what other labor was he then fit? As he advances, the light breaks in upon
him, the occasional difficulties, which he meets with in the close application of bis rules, bring him more intimately acquainted with the principles on which those rules have been formed. His inventive faculty is next called forth, by the usual exercises in composition ; whiclı again, by obliging him to examine, with increased attention, the models proposed for his imitation, force upon bis notice the peculiar merit of those models, a merit felt the more strongly when he attempts to rival them. The whole of this process is attended with sucli difficulties, that habits of attention and indisstry must be formed in the course of surmounting them; and the boy has been practically laught to subdue his love of pleasure, when put into competition with his duty.
That the language which we have used here, may not be supposed to convey merely the sentiments of pedants, who wish io entail on others the grievances which may be imagined to have stupified and narrowed their own intellects, we shall here quote the very sensible remarks of a lady, who, certainly, has not confined her own attention to the classics, or classical criticism.
“ Ce n'est pas sans raison,” says Madame de Staël, “ que l'étude des langues a été la base de tous les établissemens d'éducation qui ont formé les hommes les plus capables en Europe : le sens d'une phrase dans une langue étrangère est à la fois une problème grammatical et intellectuel ; ce problème est tout-à-fait proportionné à l'intelligence de l'enfant : d'abord il n'entend que les mots, puis il s'élève jusqu'à la conception de la phrase, et bientôt après le charme de l'expression, sa force, son harmonie, tout ce qui se trouve enfin dans le langage de l'homme, se fait sentir par degrés à l'enfant qui traduit. Il s'essaie tout seul avec les difficultés que lui présentent deux langues à la fois, il s'introduit dans les idées successivement, compare et combine divers genres d'analogies, et de vraisemblances; et l'activité spontanée de l'esprit, la seule qui développe vraiment la faculté de penser, est vivement excitée par cette étude. Le nombre des facultés qu'elle fait mouvoir à la fois lui donne l'avantage sur tout autre travail, et l'on est trop heureux d'employer la memoire flexible de l'enfant a retenir une genre de connoissances, sans lequel il seroit borné toute sa vie au cercle de sa propre nation, cercle étroit comme tout ce qui est exclusif." L'Allemagne, tom. i. p. 168.
The teacher, who insists upon the importance of a knowledge of the learned languages, as a key to the information contained in classical authors, will be told by his pupil, that though his may be the key of the regular back door of entrance, the translation stands wide open, by which he may have access to trese treasures of learning; and, that this will serve for all purposes of utility, though not quite so well calculated for parade. We are very ready to allow, that the knowledge of these languages, con
sidered merely as knowledge, is by no means so useful and ne. cessary as it was in the days of Bacon and Montaigne, when Latin was the language of travellers, of statesmen, and of men of science. We are even ready to grant, that skill in Latin composition can be of very little, perhaps of no use, unless to a person intended to be in his turn a teacher, or to hold a public si. tuation in our universities; but useless as the power of writing correct verses or elegant Sapphic odes may be, when considered only as a possession, the labor employed to acquire this power is far from being unprofitable, because, in the course of acquiring it, habits of observation and industry have been formed, and the student has acquired a more delicate perception of the beauties of the models of his imitation, than could have been acquired by any other process. Mr. Edgeworth has chosen to lay down the following rule:
“ The value of all knowledge must ultimately be decided by its utility. Recurring invariably to this standard, we may save much polemic trouble and a vast deal of absurd declamation. Let any one ask a majority of the public characters of his acquaintance, what they remember of the rules of prosody, or the receipts for making Latin verses; further, let him enquire for what sum they would willingly part with what they have retained of this knowledge. The ratio of utility may be determinedly the average of honest answers to these inquiries *.”
To this rule we should have no objection; but Mr. Edgeworth has farther assumed, and lie seems to imagine, that the propriety of the assumption can require no sort of proof,) that the utility of any branch of knowledge at once determines the utility of the labor employed in acquiring it. Before he made this assumption, it would have been well, if he had retlected a little on his own quotation from Berkeley :
“There are some studies to be pursued, not so much for the knowledge actually obtained by them, as for the discipline they give the mind; as there are some crops which the farmer sows not for the sake of the profit they afford, but for the benefit they are of to the soil."
Mr. E. delights in shewing his acquaintance with the works of Bacon ; that philosopher might have supplied him with a sentence, which would have taught him more caution.
“ Si quis," says Bacon, “ judicet doctrinam omnem referendam esse ad usum et actionem, recte sapit ; veruntamen facile est, isto
* Essays on Professional Education, pp. 371, 372.
roda modo prolabi in errorem illum, quem fabula perantiqua perstringit ; in qua cætera corporis membra litem ventriculo intenderunt, quod neque motum præteret, ut artus, neque sensum ut caput: quamvis interea alimentum coctum atque confectum ventriculus ille in relia quum corpus divideret : plane eodem modo, qui in philosophia ac contemplationibus universalibus positum omne studium, inane atque ignarum arbitratur, non animadvertit
, singulis professionibus et arti. bus erinde succum et robur suppeditaria."
An error similar to this attends all Mr. E's remarks on high classical attainments. This speaking of the power of writing Latin with elegance, he says,
“ It is absurd in a professional man, whose time is precious, to taste it in acquiring habits of expression, which must be laid aside when he enters upon his professional career t.”
And again having mentioned Mr. Fox's intimacy with the versitication of Homer, he says, that,
“ Except so far as this predisposed people to think highly of his talents, it was of no use to him in any debate in the senate, in any of the business of the nation, or in any of the various situations he occupied in life 1."
Now we should feel inclined to say, that such knowledge was by no means a proof of great abilities; knowledge being merely the produce of industry and memory directed to the attainment of a certain end ; but, that such accurate knowledge decidedly preved the existence of not merely temporary, but habitual inte dustry, and was at once the effect and cause of a correct and delicate taste. We must confess that we consider the possession of a sound taste, as more valuable than that of any species of knowledge, that of our duty excepted; and we do not attach this value to it (great as is our affection for our own profession) merely because he, vko has this faculty, is in a fair way to become a good critic; but because it implies, and cannot fail to produce a fondness for intellectual gratitications, as opposed to those of sense or even of ambition, and for intellectual pleasures of the most improving kind. It is absurd to say, ibal Mr. Fus's good taste“ was of no use to him in debate;" we are convin el that it alone induced him to exert hinself in such a manner a 5 has distinguished bim, instead of being all his life ihe profli ate man of fashion; it did more, for it protected him from far inng into that miserable state of peevishness, which continual polical failures must otherwise have brought on, and this it did by ait id. ing him a constant supply of cheerful and placid amusements.
* Bacon. De Iugm. Scient. lib. ii. ad princ. • Prof. Educ. p. 301.
Do. pag. 370.