Imágenes de páginas

It is also important that my intellectual faculties be improved, and therefore important that an instructor do not so employ my time as to render them less efficient.

3. Closely connected with these remarks is the question, which has of late been so much agitated, respecting the study of the ancient languages and the mathematics. On the one part, it is urged that the study of the languages is intended to cultivate the taste and imagination, and that of the mathematics to cultivate the understanding. On the other part, it is denied that these effects are produced ; and it is asserted that the time spent in the study of them is wasted. Examples, as may be supposed, are adduced in abundance on both sides; but I do not know that the question is at all decided. Let us see whether anything that we have said will throw any light upon it.

I think it can be conclusively proved, that the classics could be so taught as to give additional acuteness to the discriinination, more delicate sensibility to the taste, and more overflowing richness to the imagination. So much as this must, we think, be admitted. If, then, it be the fact that these effects are not produced—and I think we must admit that they are not, in any such degree as might reasonably be expected-should we not conclude that the fault is not in the classics, but in our teaching? Would not teaching them better be the sure way of silencing the clamour against them?

I will frankly confess that I am sad when I reflect upon the condition of the study of the languages among us. We spend frequently six or seven years in Latin and Greek, and yet who of us writes—still more, who of us speaks them with facility? I am sure there must be something wrong in the mode of our teaching, or we should accomplish more. That cannot be skilfully done, which, at so great an expense of time, produces so very slender a result. Milton affirms, that what in his time was acquired in six or seven years, might have been easily acquired in one. I fear that we have not greatly improved since.

Again, we very properly defend the study of the languages on the ground that they cultivate the taste, the imagination, and the judgment. But is there any magic in the name of a classic ? Can this be done by merely teaching a boy to render, with all clumsiness, a sentence from another language into his own ? Can the faculties of which we have spoken be improved, when not one of them is ever called into action ? No. When the classics are so taught as to cultivate the taste and give vigour to the imagination, when all that is splendid and beautiful in the works of the ancient masters is breathed into the conceptions of our youth, when the delicate wit of Flaccus tinges their conversation, and the splendid oratory of Tully, or the irresistible eloquence of Demosthenes, is felt in the senate and at the bar-I do not say that even then we may not find something more worthy of being studied, but we shall then be prepared, with a better knowledge of the facts, to decide upon the merits of the classics. The same remarks may apply, though perhaps with diminished force, to the study of the mathematics. If, on one hand, it be objected that this kind of study does not give that energy to the powers of reasoning which has frequently been expected, it may, on the other hand, be fairly questioned whether it be correctly taught. The mathematics address the understanding. But they may be so taught as mainly to exercise the memory. If they he so taught, we shall look in vain for the anticipated result. I suppose that a student, after having been taught one class of geometrical principles, should as much be required to combine them in the forms of original demonstration, as that he who has been taught a rule of arithmetic should be required to put it into various and diversified practice. It is thus alone that we shall acquire that δυναμις αναλυτικη, the mathematical power which the Greeks considered of more value than the possession of any number of problems. When the mathematics shall be thus taught, I think there will cease to be any question whether they add acuteness, vigour, and originality to mind.

I have thus endeavoured very briefly to exhibit the object of education, and to illustrate the nature of the means by which that object is to be accomplished. I fear that I have already exhausted your patience, I will, therefore, barely detain you with two additional remarks.

I. To the members of this convention allow me to say, gentlemen, you have chosen a noble profession. What though it do not confer upon us wealth ! - it confers upon us a higher boon, the privilege of being useful. What though it lead not to the falsely named heights of political eminence !-it leads us to what is far better, the sources of real power; for it renders intellectual ability necessary to our success. I do verily believe that nothing so cultivates the powers of a man's own mind as thorough, generous, liberal, and indefatigable teaching. But our profession has rewards, rich rewards, peculiar to itself. What can be more delightful to a philanthropic mind than to behold intellectual power increased a hundred fold by our exertions, talent de.

veloped by our assiduity, passions eradicated by our counsel, and a multitude of men pouring abroad over society the lustre of a virtuous example, and becoming meet to be inheritors with the saints in light-and all in consequence of the direction which we have given to them in youth? I ask again, what profession has any higher rewards?

Again, we at this day are in a manner the pioneers in this work in this country. Education, as a science, has scarcely yet been naturalized among us. Radical improvement in the means of education is an idea that seems but just to have entered into men's minds. It becomes us to act worthily of our station. Let us by all the means in our power second the efforts and the wishes of the public. Let us see that the first steps in this course are taken wisely. This country ought to be the best educated on the face of the earth. By the blessing of heaven, we can do much towards the making of it so. God helping us, then, let us make our mark on the rising generation.

[blocks in formation]



[From the Quarterly Journal of Education, No. XI.]

[The Quarterly Journal of Education was first issued by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in January, 1831. It was intended to afford a means of recording the “great and interesting events of education, and for communicating the improvements which are made from time to time in the modes of acquiring knowledge." This has been attempted to be carried into effect by essays by various authors, and facts collected from various sources, foreign and domestic, on subjects connected with education in its widest sense, and by reviews of books treating on topics of instruction. The Society, however, guard themselves against being deemed answerable for every separate opinion. They say—“ It will of course be their duty not to sanction anything inconsistent with the general principles of the Society. If, therefore, the general effect of a paper be favourable to the objects of the Society, the committee will feel themselves at liberty to direct its publication: the details must be the author's alone, and the opinions expressed on each particular question must be considered as his, and not those of the committee." Nine volumes of this work have now been published, containing a mass of valuable matter; the three following articles

« AnteriorContinuar »