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BY W. H. FURNESS.
Our childhood's joys. How oft this tale is told!
O there's a joy in youth, ne'er felt again,
We never think, while yet but “ fools to fame,"
BY JOHN SERGEANT.
EDUCATION, in all its parts, is a concern of so much consequence, so deeply and vitally interesting, that it ought not to be exposed, without great caution, to hazardous experiments and innovations. Is it, then, susceptible of no improvement? Is the human mind, progressive upon all other subjects, to be stationary upon this? Shall not education be allowed to advance with the march of intellect, and its path be illuminated with the increased and increasing light of the age? Or shall it be condemned to grope in the imperfect twilight, while every thing else enjoys the lustre of a meridian sun? These are imposing questions which are not to be answered by a single word. Admitting the general truth of that which they seem to assert, namely, that education, in all its departments, ought to be carried to the highest attainable perfection, and that the methods of reaching that point deserve our most anxious and continued attention—it must at the the same time be apparent, that as long as the argument is merely speculative, implying objections to existing methods of instruction, and raising doubts about their value, without offering a distinct and approved substitute, great danger is to be apprehended from its circulation.
There is no doubt that improvement may be made in the seminaries of our country--there is no doubt that it ought to be made--and it is quite certain that it requires nothing but the support of enlightened public sentiment to bring it into operation. The improvement adverted to is improvement in degree a better preparation for admission into college—a somewhat later age, and of course more mature powers--and, as a consequence, higher and more thorough teaching. The result can not be secured, unless the means are employed; and their employment does not depend upon those who are immediately entrusted with the care of the instruction of youth. Professors and teachers would unfeignedly rejoice, in raising the standard of education in advancing their pupils further and further in the path of learning--if parents, duly estimating its importance, could be prevailed upon to afford them the opportunity—for they, (unless totally unfit for their trust,) must be justly and conscientiously convinced of the value of such improvement. But their voice is scarcely listened to. By a prejudice, as absurd and unreasonable as it is unjust, they are supposed to be seeking only to advance their own interest; and their testimony is, on that account, disregarded; when, upon every principle by which human evidence ought to be tried, it is entitled to the highest respect. Their means of knowledge are greater than those of other men. They learn from daily experience--they learn from constant and anxious meditation, they learn from habitual occupation. It is theirs to watch with parental attention, and with more than parental intelligence, the expanding powers of the pupils committed to their charge. It is theirs to observe the influence of discipline and instruction in numerous instances, as it operates upon our nature—and it is theirs, too, with parental feeling to note the issues of their labours, in the lives of those who have been under their charge-to rejoice with becoming pride, when following an alumnus of the college with the eye of affectionate ten
out the education of their children beyond the ordinary limits. Such an improvement as has now been alluded to, ought unquestionably to be aimed at. The progress of liberal education ought to bear some proportion to the rapid advances our country is making in other respects, and to the character and standing which her wealth, her strength, and her resources require her to maintain. It is especially due to the nature of our republican institutions, in order to win for them still higher esteem with mankind, that their capacity should be demonstrated, to encourage and produce whatever is calculated to adorn and to improve our nature, and to contribute our full proportion to the great society of learning and letters in the world. It would be much to be regretted, if the multiplication of colleges were to have the contrary effect, of lowering the standard of education, or of preventing its progressive elevation. Let the competition among them be, not who shall have the most pupils within their walls, but who shall make the best scholars!