Imágenes de páginas

less and less as the boy grows older, because as he grows older his moral principle becomes stronger-becomes stronger by his education being first subjected to that influence which is called one of the lower motives of action. We do not profess to understand how the moral principle becomes stronger under this arrangement. Nor are we quite sure that we understand what is here meant by the moral principle. As boys grow older their passions become stronger, and unless the power of selfcontrol grows stronger at an equal rate, the whole boy is less adapted for right conduct than he was at an earlier age. He may know more as to what is best to be done, but he is subjected to more influences which tend to draw him from the right course. The power of conducting himself properly under these circumstances may be called the moral principle, and we presume this is what is intended. But this power does not come from increasing years, for with increasing years, when there is no right discipline, the moral principle, as thus understood, becomes weaker and weaker, as we all know. And this we believe to be the state of the case in many schools, not merely those called public schools. The passions increase with increasing years, but the power of self-control does not increase in the same rate, because there is no discipline specially directed to this object, as Locke suggests there should be.*


* A few alterations have been made in this article, and a few parts added, since it was printed in the Journal of Education.




Delivered before the American Institute of Instruction,

August, 1831.

It has been the practice of most teachers to call in the aid of emulation to stimulate their pupils in the prosecution of their studies. By several writers, however, it has been maintained, that this is not a good or a safe principle of action. And many teachers, who resort to it, acknowledge its tendency to be dangerous, but justify themselves on the ground of necessity. They suppose it to be impossible to find other motives sufficiently powerful to produce the desired effect. The attention of my respected audience is now invited to a few remarks on “the means which may be employed to stimulate the student without the aid of emulation."* If such means can be pointed out, a favour will be conferred on those who regard emulation as an unlawful or an unsafe principle of action ; while even they who have no scruples on that point may find the influence of other motives a desirable auxiliary in the work of education. The importance of the subject assigned me on this occasion is readily perceived, when we consider how general is the practice of resorting to the aid of emulation, in families, in common schools, and in literary institutions of a higher order; how powerful this principle is in its operation ; and how great and lasting an influence it frequently has in the formation of human character. To do full justice to our subject would re

* It will be seen that the shape of the subject assigned by the directors of the institute precluded the writer from entering into a consideration of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of emulation as a principle of action. In the discussion which followed the delivery of the lecture, however, he was led to regret that he had not at least attempted a definition of emulation, and made a few plain distinctions in order to guard, if possible, against that confusion of terms and ideas too, by which the discussion was embarrassed. Indeed, without a clear idea of what emulation is, it would not appear but that the lecturer, in attempting to enumerate the best means of stimulating a student without the aid of emulation, had inadvertently recommended some methods which have a direct tendency to excite those feelings in which emulation consists. Is

emulation, then, as has been sometimes insinuated, a desire of advancement in knowledge and virtue ? a desire of continued and indefinite progress in literature and science, and in the culture of the intellectual faculties ? If so, the lecturer has entirely mistaken his subject, and has relied for success in stimulating a student, chiefly on that very principle which he professed to avoid. But he understood emulation, and he still believes it is generally understood, to be quite a different thing. Emulation, as he understood the term, is a love of superiority, a spirit of competition or rivalry, a desire to ouldo others. It is altogether a comparative thing, and derives its whole gratification from a comparison of one's self with another, or some others, who are regarded as inferior, or as having been left behind in the race. It is a selfish principle, and utterly inconsistent with disinterested benevolence. One who is actuated by better motives might say to his fellow, “ I have a desire to press forward in the path of improvement and usefulness; I am determined to use every effort for the pur. pose. I should rejoice to see you do the same. Come, then, and go with me. We may each be a help to the other. It will give me pleasure to aid your progress by every means in my power, But if you remit your efforts, I must condemn your negligence. If you fail for the vant of opportunity or ability, I shall lament your misfortune. Surely I cannot wish to see you linger behind. I should be base, indeed, to derive pleasure from seeing another destitute of a good which I myself enjoy." (For a more extended discussion of this subject, see the chapter on “ Emulation and Ambition" in " Elements of Moral Philosophy,” by the writer of the Lecture.) VOL. I.

2 h

quire an elaborate treatise on the principles of education. On the present occasion, being restricted by feeble health within narrow limits, I can only offer a few suggestions, without stopping to illustrate my meaning by examples, to prove the correctness of my views by facts and arguments, or to trace my principles to their various practical results.

1. The human mind is formed for activity. It is so constituted that the voluntary exercise of its various faculties on appropriate objects is a source of pleasure. But there are several ways in which the mind, especially of a child, may become fatigued, or wearied, or disgusted. Mental exertion may be too long continued. The mind may be too long confined to a single object. Exercise may be afforded to only one of the faculties, the memory for instance, while the other faculties, more important in their nature, and more interesting to the possessor, are suffered to lie dormant. The mind may be compelled, or reluctantly urged, to direct its attention to a specified object, at a moment when it happens to have a strong preference for some other employment; or it may be required to attend to something, to which it has imbibed an aversion in consequence of injudicious treatment or unfortunate associations of ideas. The pleasure naturally arising from intellectual effort may also be destroyed by keeping the body too long confined to the same posture. The intimate connexion and mutual influence of body and mind are well known. The body is formed for activity as well as the mind. If, for want of exercise, or from a confined posture, the blood does not circulate freely and all the vital functions go on briskly, the intellectual operations will be impeded. When the bones begin to ache,

or the blood to stagnate, the mind becomes dull, and that which otherwise would be very interesting, now loses its power to charm. Let, then, the parent or teacher carefully guard against all these counteracting influences, and he will find that the pupil will voluntatarily, and with pleasure, exercise his mental faculties and his bodily senses on such subjects and such objects as are suited to his age and capacity.

But what are the subjects, and what are the objects, to which the attention of the mind should be invited ? In the case of children we may infer the design of nature, and may learn what is best suited to their capacity, by observing to what they, of their own accord, chiefly direct their attention and curiosity. It is to the colours, forms, and other sensible properties, together with the names and uses of material objects. Now, it is the part of a wise teacher to follow nature; to make the inquisitiveness of children the means of their improvement; and to gratify, encourage, and guide their curiosity, by giving them information, and assisting them to distinguish and describe the colours, forms, uses, &c., of the objects around them. Here is a wide field for inquiry and instruction. The various works of art, and the multiform productions of nature, animal, vegetable, and mineral, lie open to inspection. But even here a selection must be made, and only those facts and operations must be presented to the mind which it is capable of comprehending. And caution must be used, not to present too many new objects and new ideas in rapid succession. This distracts the mind, produces confusion of thought; precludes a careful observation of the properties, the differences, and resemblances of individual objects; and of course prevents anything valuable from

« AnteriorContinuar »