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Prejudices affecting Education. Instruction, by a gradual process from insignificant to higher degrees of knowledge, is indispensable to humanity. Created beings of a superior rank probably differ from man in this respect only by the greater strides they are able to take in the progress of improvement. However this may be, the latter is evidently confined in his operations by his peculiar construction. He enters into life endowed with mental powers of considerable magnitude ; but, previously to their exertion, his mind itself is so completely a blank, as to afford the best emblem that can be deduced from the anima. ted world of a philosophical vacuum. In this state, Nature is his first instructor. She has granted him organs of sense, by means of which she in. troduces him to an acquaintance with the exterior universe. The mind thus acted upon, insensibly developes those surprising properties, superior to mere perception, or the lower functions of consciousness, which distinguish the human from the brute creation, and enable the highly-gifted possessor to assume his allotted station in the dignified order of reasoning beings.
It has been wisely ordered, that, Nature having provided the means for, and superintended the first advances in the pursuit of knowledge, the important part still remaining to be performed should be left to the ingenuity and industry of mankind. Of this part, the greater portion is committed to the care of persons connected with the individual by the ties of social fraternity, or of consanguinity,—the lesser to the individual himself. The former, that part for which he is indebted to others, is properly comprehended in the term EDUCATION ; but that word, in its usual acceptation, is not sufficiently significant of the extensive province required to be designated. The duties of education are commonly supposed to be exclusively applicable to the culture of mind, and innumerable arbitrary restrictions are attached even to that limited notion. It is plain, however, that in our consideration of this subject, a wider field must be held in view ; and that, with the final intention of enlarging and adorning the mind, as the most valuable part of our being, no small share of care and anxiety must also be devoted to corporeal improvement.
The connection between sensation, perception, and consciousness, is so intimate, as to influence in a marked manner, by the preservation and improvement of the one, the fate of the others. Sensation is brought into activity by the agency of the bodily organs, and these latter are immediately affected, in respect to their efficiency, by the health and general condition of the human frame. A regard to habits of order, temperance, cleanliness, and ex, ercise, should enter into the training of the tenderest infant: his diet should be composed of the simplest elements ; he should be sedulously kept in a state of innocence and estrangement from all violent excitements; his dress should be regulated by no other standard but what may be suggested by an attention to convenience and the maintenance of health.
A little posterior to these salutary regulations, although as nearly as possible simultaneously with them, should commence the direct work of cultivating the mind. The careful removal, every time they may discover themselves, of the seeds of the irregular passions, which are equally detrimental to mental and corporeal improvement, is the earliest duty in this department. The business of directing reflection into the proper channels, of storing the memory with ideas not spontaneously admitted through the senses, and, generally, of enlarging the understanding, follows, and is susceptible of indefinite increase, in point of volume and importance.
For the application of these several points of duty by the parties on whom they may have been devolved, to his personal advantage, every individual, as well if born in the lowest as in the highest station, possesses an undoubted right. One of the strongest grounds of this right is that peculiar helplessness with which he enters into life, under precisely similar circumstances experienced by those adult members of his family and community, from wliom he now justly expects a return of that protection and support of which they have themselves been heretofore the objects. They altogether inherit, in fact, with their common imbecility, a legitimate claim for its melioration and relief. Hence, to withhold the benefits of a good education from the offspring of the humblest parents, is a criminal dereliction of a positive duty, and a sin, not only against religion and the dictates of an enlightened policy, but against our common huinanity.
Insisting upon the principle, that those cares which solely tend to the comfort, health, and improvement of the body, should be equally and impartially dispensed to all the members of the community, the peculiar duties appropriated to the cultivation of mind may be allowed to differ, in the degree of their application to the accidental circumstances of the individual to be educated. A well-regulated community is, or ought to be, composed of three prominent classes :--the inheritors or possessors of property, which renders them independent of personal exertion for their support, and to whom will, in the natural course of events, devolve the chief civil functions of the state ; the labourers upon capital, either in substance or composed of the more lucrative talents, including the various adventitious resources afforded by fortune; and that larger portion of the society who, more exclusively dependent upon their labour, are simply designated under the appellation of labourers, and comprehending the still poorer individuals who are divested of this natural resource, and are consequently frequently indebted for subsistence to the precarious hand of Charity.
Of these three classes, the children of the third, or lowest, should, to the age of three or four years, receive precisely the same education, in respect of food, clothing, and mental cultivation, as those of the first or highest: from this period, to the age of seven or eight, there should still exist no differ, ence between them, so far as respects the concerns of corporeal culture ; and to the age of nine or ten, the improvement of the mind might be continued upon nearly the same scale as applied to such of the children of the second class as are not specially educated for what are termed the learned professions. After this, a lower scale of education may, with all justice, and in strict propriety, be pursued, combining with the acquisition of the knowledge less direcily useful, the necessary experience and practice of the arts which are to furnish the sources of subsistence.
A system established upon a principle something like this-deriving its existence and support, not from legislative enactments, but the conviction of its utility impressed upon the minds of the majority of the people-could not fail of producing effects highly conducive to the attainment of an order of civilization superior to any which the world has yet witnessed. While it would tend to elevate the poorer members to their just rank in the scale of society, it would improve the health, and foster the amiable qualities of the more fortunate individuals. It would help to consolidate, harmonize, and improve, the whole social mass. Connected, as it must always be understood to be, with the general diffusion of morality and religion, it would infallibly lead to a very extraordinary degree of private happiness and public prosperity.
The prejudices affecting the duties of education have already, of late years, become considerably weakened. The principle is pretty generally recognised, that the existence of one uneducated person in the community is a public misfortune, and that the public prosperity is consequently increased by the delivery of each victim from the abyss of ignorance. This fact exhibits one of those glorious triumphs over prejudice, which are more honourable and beneficial to mankind than all the brilliant achievements of desolating war. Such an improvement has taken place in the general opinion upon this subject, that it is now no longer necessary to employ argument to prove the value of education to the poor, or the policy of bestowing it upon them. We are therefore only anxious that the term should be understood in its due latitude. A mere knowledge of the rudi. ments of learning is insufficient for the improvement of mind : the training to which we before alluded is perhaps still more essential, as an indispensable foundation for the higher attainments; and the object of securing
its universal adoption should equally engage the attention of the numerous benevolent spirits who now, more than at any period since the creation of the world, adorn the great human society.
But however desirous those of sanguine temperament may be for an increased momentum to the progress of improvement, such is the pleasing prospect before
that the most eager philanthropist may rest satisfied, that, even with the means at present in activity, the great end must ultimately be attained. The advantages of education are not confined to the individuals to whom they are immediately dispensed ; they possess powers of self-multiplication. The attainments, however humble, of any individual, are never wholly absorbed by himself, or exhausted in the promotion of his personal interests ; they are, sooner or later, in some degree at least, communicated to others. Thus, the useful acquisitions of the lowest mind is a valuable accession to the general stock of knowledge, and therefore of immense importance to the great cause of civilization. We must compare the darkness of former times with the comparative illumination of the present, to confirm the expectations to which this consideration is calculated to give rise. A great part of the living subordinate classes of society possess more learning-infinitely more virtue-than the majority of the great personages whose actions fill the annals of history. The time is not very remote, when scarcely one person in a hundred had received the benefit of a useful education:
in the present day, the number is increased at least thirty or forty fold. The one of the former period imported his knowledge to two of the succeeding age, and these two, and their followers, successively increased their numbers, in the geometrical ratio, to the thirty or forty of our times. The most powerful of the enemies to improvement cannot arrest the progress of the latter, who, with accelerating forces, are hastening to complete the full hundred; the operation, apparently, of only a few more generations. When that point shall have been attained, society will, for the first time, exhibit a specimen of pure civilization an integral machine, disincumbered of its most objectionable members, and beautifully united in all its parts. Then will reason and revelation proceed unimpeded towards their natural pre-eminent stations; prejudice will be tolerated only in a state of innoxious impotence; and wars between neighbouring or distant states, the effects of perverted reason, mistaken religion, and overpowering prejudices, will cease to be known among men.
Chapter IV. Prejudices relating to Social Government. Perfect security, in respect to person and property, is the sum of the benefits to be derived by a citizen from the Government of his country. The business of administering this security is materially lightened in that state of civilization when the apprehension of foreign aggression has finally ceased: it still further diminishes in proportion to the prevalence of an enlightened system of education, and the general cultivation of a pure religion. By these powerful means, acts of aggression insensibly decrease in number and violence, and the single resources of the individual become more and more adequate to his personal protection.
In no department of life have men made greater mistakes than in their conceptions of the true nature of government. The name itself by which it is designated has, with reference to the improved system which may confidently be expected hereafter to prevail, been unfortunately chosen. The public guardians rule, indeed, the violators of the laws ; but they stand in no other relation than as protectors to the good and peaceable citizen. He remains in the full possession of his natural rights after he has acquiesced in the necessary conditions which secure to him the advantages of society ; he is not, in a political sense, governed by any person whatever, but lives under the sole direction of his own reason and the laws of his country.
The varieties which have, from the earliest ages, existed in the forms of government, are proofs of the extraordinary prejudices which envelope this subject. From one or other of these forms, it would not be difficult, if such a minute investigation entered into our plan, to trace the several steps, in the progressive accumulation of facts, when each of those prejudices arose. A despotism, the worst form of government, is evidently the fabric of inexperience, after the fact of the weakness of unassisted man had indeed been fully known, but before the acquired energies and natural rights of a wellregulated community have been sufficiently felt and appreciated. Those energies and rights, gradually and reluctantly displayed, produce events, the tragic struggles of the injured with oppression, which, in the course of time, lead, through the broad road to a less imperfect destiny, to those modified systems which are most prevalent in our own day.
The best form of government can only be secured after the people have attained a high state of moral improvement: all the imperfections of the past and existing systems are attributable to our distance from that necessary standard. In vain would the misguided philanthropist attempt to erect the most sound theoretical scheme of government with the materials which the present attainments of society offer to his hands : instead of advancing the interests of humanity, he would soon discover, that the purer the system he hoped to introduce, the more dangerous and destructive would be the consequences of his well-meant innovations. There is, in short, but one virtuous mode of pursuing a revolutionary project-but one course of conduct, by which the spirit which such a project cherishes can be accepta able to God and beneficial to mankind. Reform, to be useful and permanent, must be universal. It must enter into the education, religion, habits, and lives, of the population, as well as into the institutions by which they are bound together as a great community. Success in the former object must infallibly ensure it to the latter ; and the most efficient labourers in the work of reform and revolution, are those laudable individuals who are most actively employed in extending the empire of morality and religion.
Before we can acquire a correct notion of the best form of government, we must frame to ourselves the idea of a people very generally virtuous. In doing this, it would be invidious, at least, if not unsafe, to select, as an example, any one of the existing communities of the earth : but in looking towards a state of society perhaps yet uncreated, we must, to be useful, confine our anticipations to what is evidently practicable and probable. We will suppose the case of a well-educated population, in which the lowest classes have not only acquired the first elements of literature, but have been trained, by early habits of decency and sobriety, to a thorough veneration for the admirable precepts of Christianity, and a consequent regard for the sacred duties of morality: We allow enough for the imperfection of human nature, when we admit the existence of many incorrigible spirits, and that the seeds of vice, notwithstanding the predominant power of virtue, are not wholly extinct. We contend, however, for an increasing majority of welldisposed persons of the lowest class. Before this point can be attained, a corresponding improvement of the moral condition of the upper ranks (through whose instrumentality the other effect would have been produced) must necessarily have taken place. We have then here a mingled population of rich and poor, the majority of whom pass their lives in subservience to the great purpose for which life has been bestowed upon them—in constantly resisting the inroads of passion, and in preparing themselves, amidst all the innocent enjoyments of the present time, for the sure approach of a more perfect existence.
Such a people cannot long remain, with respect to their moral attainments, in an isolated situation. If vice is contagious, virtue has also, by the blessed ordination of Heaven, its power of increase. Their example must naturally influence the moral condition of surrounding nations; the flame will infallibly spread, and the time will at length arrive, when the majority of the inhabitants of the globe, as well as that of a single community, will have felt and cherished the delightful effects of religion and order.
But while this last result is yet but in course of attainment, what is the form of government which would best befit the society we had first in view? or, which is exactly the same thing, what is the form of government which it will be sure to adopt ? As a state, it would have no immediate interest in the proceedings of distant countries, although a part of its population would be engaged with them in a beneficial interchange of commodities, and, as the guarantee of its own happiness, in encouraging their attempts to emulate its attainments in civilization. The causes and the apprehension of war would gradually expire; and the single duty of the government to be adopted would be, to protect the majority of the citizens from the feeble assaults of the smaller and still decreasing number.
This duty divides itself into the business of enacting laws, and of attending to their execution. A law made after a due accession of experience, and after the prejudices which naturally attended the acquisition of that experience had disappeared, is made once for all; it is permanent, and requires no subsequent revision or alteration : a time may therefore be anticipated, in which the duties of government will be simply executive. As facts accumulate, and prejudices wear away, laws will gradually diminish in number, and their hold upon the heart, or power of self-operation, will proportionally increase. The religion hitherto most encouraged by human institutions, which has invariably been either the false, or an admixture of the false and the true religion, necessarily required support from legislative enactments; but pure Christianity is only vilified and degraded by such insidious patronage. Commerce, and all the multifarious transactions between man and man, can be regulated by positive laws only in a period of comparative barbarism : in an advanced state of civilization, (such a state as we do not yet actually know, but of which we have now a clear prospect,) when the true relations of the individual to his fellow, and to society, are best understood, the full management of his private affairs, when they do not interfere with the rights of others, will be left, unembarrassed by the spirit of monopoly and the principle of arbitrary interference, to his unrestrained control.
How then is the circumscribed duty which remains to Government to be conducted ? With the multiplicity of complicated affairs with which it before busied itself will have fed for ever much of its parade, pomp, and other circumstances, extraneous to its proper functions, originally contrived for purposes of ostentation, and indirectly for those of delusion. Institutions and combinations, which were heretofore presumed to be indispensable adjuncts of political rule, will be altogether divested of the pretence of public expediency. They will not, indeed, be violently overthrown-they may even escape any strong marks of that contempt to which, when they are tried by their own intrinsic merits, they are peculiarly obnoxious; but they will gradually fall into disuse, and leave no other vestige of their previous existence save what may be drawn from the antiquated records of ages of imperfect civilization. To answer our question, we must always bear in mind, that, under the circumstances supposed, the majority of the people will have become wise as well as virtuous; for, as the passions are subdued, the due pre-eminence is allowed to the dominion of reason. It will be required that the duty, whatever may be its amount, remaining to be discharged by the Government, should be conducted in the best, as well as the least expensive manner. If, then, wisdom in enacting, in preserving, and in executing laws, is a point to be rigorously exacted, it is evident that it can be sought only, with any probability of success, in approved and selected agents, not among the fortuitous possessors of hereditary distinctions, which are frequently, in the end, as injurious to themselves as they are hurtful or valueless to the society : if the strictest economy in the disbursements of Government cannot be dispensed with without the public sanction of plunder and injustice, simplicity, not idle parade and childish pageantry, must characterise all its arrangements and proceedings.
The best form of government for a highly-cultivated community,—the form of government which it will be sure eventually to adopt-is that in which the guardians of the public laws and interests are drawn from, and selected by the people. It is not our business to inquire into the mode in which that selection should be made: the best mode of making such selec