Page images
PDF
EPUB

After all the confinement and trouble of a domestic education; it is probable that the boy will at laft be fent to the university. There he will find the greater part of his affociates to confift of young men who have been educated at fchools; and if they have any vices, he will now be in much greater danger of moral infection, and will suffer worse confequences from it, than if he had not been fecluded from boys at a boyish age. He will appear aukward, and unacquainted with their manners. He will be neglected, if not defpifed. His fpirit, if he poffeffes any, will not fubmit to contempt; and the final refult will be, that he will imitate, and at length furpafs, their irregularities, in order to gain a welcome reception. From actual obfervation I am convinced, that this voluntary degeneracy does often take place under thefe, or under fimilar circumftances. That happy conduct which can preferve dignity and esteem at the university, without any blameable compliances, muft arife from a degree of worldly wisdom, as well as moral rectitude, rarely poffeffed by him who has been educated in a clofet. It is not enough, that the mind has been furnished with prudent maxims, nor that the pureft principles have been inftilled into the heart, unless the understanding has itself col lected fome practical rules, which can only be gained by actual intercourfe, and unless that degree of fortitude is acquired, which perhaps can only arife from frequent conflicts terminating in victory.

With respect to literary improvement, I think that a boy of parts will be a better fcholar, if educated at a school, than at home. The reason is, that in a school many circumftances co-operate to force his own perfonal exertion, on which depends the increase of mental ftrength and of course improvement, infinitely more than on the instruction of any preceptor whatfoever.

Many of the arguments in fupport of this opinion must be common, for their truth is obvious. Emulation cannot be excited without rivals; and without emulation, instruction will be always a tedious, and often a fruitlefs, labour. It is this which warms the paffions on the fide of all that is excellent, and more than counterbalances the weight of temptations to vice and idleness. The boy of an ingenuous mind, who stands at the head of his class, ranks, in the microcofom of a fchool, as a hero, and his feelings are fcarcely lefs elevated. He will fpare no pains to maintain his honourable post; and his competitors, if they have fpirit, will be no lefs affiduous to fupplant him. No feverity, no painful confinement, no harfh menaces will be neceffary. Emulation will effect in the beft manner the most valuable purpofes; and at the fame time will caufe, in the bosom of the scholar, a pleasure truly enviable. View him in his feat, turning his Lexicon with the greatest alacrity; and then turn to the pupil in the clofet, who with languid eye is poring, in folitude, over a leffon which he naturally confiders as the bane of his enjoyment, and confequently feels no other with than to get it over as foon as he can with impu nity. It is true, a private tutor may do good by praife; but what is folitary praife, to the glory of standing in a distinguished post of ho nour, the envy and admiration of a whole fchool?

Ducere vero claffem pulcherrimum. QUINTILIAN.

B 2

'The

The fchool-boy has the best chance of acquiring that confidence and spirit which is necessary to display valuable attainments. Exceffive diffidence, bashfulness, and indolence retard the acquifition of knowledge, and destroy its due effect when acquired. They are the cause of pain to their poffeffors, and commonly do injuftice to their real abilities, and hurt their intereft. It is one circumitance in public fchools, which tends to give the scholars a due degree of confidence, that public examination or election days are usually established in them; when, besides the examination, which, if undergone with credit, infpires courage, orations are spoken before numerous auditors. This must greatly contribute to take off that timidity, which has filenced many able perfons brought up to the bar, and to the pulpit. The neceffity of making a good appearance on public days, caufes a great degree of attention to be paid to the art of fpeaking; an art, which, from the defect of early culture, has been totally wanting in fome of our beft divines; many of whom never gave fatisfaction to a common audience in preaching thofe compofitions, which, when published, have been admired in the clofet.

The formation of connexions which may contribute to future advancement, and of friendships which cannot easily be diffolved, has always been a powerful argument in fupport of the preference of public fchools. Such connexions and fuch friendships have been, and may be formed. The opportunity which public fchools afford, is certainly an additional circumftance in recommendation of them. But I, cannot on it expreffing my difapprobation of the practice which has fometimes prevailed, of fending a fon to fchool merely to form connexions. One reafon is, that a fon, in fuch cafes, has been ufually inftructed at home, to pay a fervile deference to thofe of his fchoolfellows who are likely to be diftinguished by future rank or fortune. By this fubmiffion, he has acquired a meanness of mind highly dif graceful to a man of liberal education. He has entered into a voluntary flavery, for the felf-abafement and inconveniences of which, no emolument can compenfate; and he has not unfrequently been fruftrated in his expectation even of profit; for it so happens, that the fervility which accommodates the great man, often renders the voJuntary dependent contemptible in his fight. After many years fervitude, the greedy expectant is often difmiffed, as he deferves, unrewarded. But let him gain what he may, it will in my opinion, be dearly purchafed at the price of the confcious dignity of a manly independence. Thofe difinterefted friendships which are formed at public fchools, from a real congeniality of fentiments and tafte, will certainly contribute much to comfort, and perhaps to advancement. Experience proves, that they are more durable than thofe formed at any fubfequent period.

A great degree of bodily exercife is neceffary for boys. Nature has taken care to provide for this neceffity, by giving them a propenfity to play. But they never enter into the puerile divertions with proper fpirit, but with boys. He then who is placed at a school, has the best opportunity of aufwering the intentions of nature, in taking that conftant exercife which contributes equally to Arength of body and vigour of mind.

i

I may add to the many arguments in favour of fchool-education, the pleasure and enjoyment of the pupil. Placed in a little fociety of members like himself, he finds ample scope for the exertion of his various powers and propenfities. He has friends and play-fellows conftantly at hand; and the bufy fcene paffing before him, is a neverfailing fource of amusement.

The private pupil languishes in folitude, deprived of many of thefe advantages, or enjoying them imperfectly. He feels but little emulation; he contracts a diffidence; he makes few friendships, for want of opportunity; he is fecluded from the molt healthy exercifes; and his early youth, the pleafant fpring of life, is spent in a painful confinement.

But yet there are a few circumftances which will render private education the most proper. These are, uncommon meeknefs of difpolition, natural weaknefs of understanding, bodily infirmity, any remarkable defect of the fenfes, and any fingular deformity, Boys in thefe circumstances fhould be treated like those tender plants, which, unable to bear the weather, are placed under glaffes, and in the fhelter of the green-houfe. The oak will flourish beft in an open expo

fure.'

It must be confeffed that Mr. Knox's arguments in favour of the opinion he maintains are, many of them, plaufible and ingenious: neverthelefs, we cannot altogether concur with him. in his fentiments on this fubject.

That a greater proportion of good scholars is educated in publick than in private fchools is not to be denied; but then we must take this confideration along with us, that for one pupil who is educated privately, hundreds go through the difcipline of a public fchool. Add to this, that when children, who have their fortunes to make, difcover any ftriking fuperiority of parts. or understanding, it is ufual for parents to place them at fome of the great public fchools, not only with a view to college preferments, but alfo for the opportunity of making connexions which may promote their future advancement in the world. Impolitic as this laft motive will prefently appear to be, it fends many a boy of genius to a public fchool, who would otherwife have been educated privately. It is contended, that in public fchools

The principal objection offered against the education of schools, when compared with private tuition, has always been, that the morals are in greater danger at fchool than at home. But let us hear a fenfible poet of antiquity on the fubject:

Plurima funt-Famâ digna finiftrâ-

Quæ mouftrant ipfi pueris traduntque PARENTES,
Sic Natura jubet: velociùs et citiùs nos

Corrumpunt VITIORUM EXEMPLA DOMESTICA. JUVENAL.

Add to this, that Lycurgus, Plato, and many other wife men of antiquity, as well as of modern times, have preferred public education.'

B3

emulation

emulation acts as a ftimulus to industry; this, it must be acknowledged, is a material advantage: yet, furely, it may be introduced, in fome degree at least, into a scheme of private education. There feems to be no neceffity that the private tutor fhould have but one folitary pupil; any number of pupils, not interfering with the economy of a private family, feems fufficiently compatible with the idea of private pupilage. If there be but two, emulation will not fail to operate. The argument drawn from the advantages of making connexions at school with those who are born to the expectation of rank or fortune is certainly a feeble one. Connexions of that kind are frequently as fatal to worldly intereft, as they are to morals, pernicious and deftructive. They are, in fhort, tickets in a lottery, in which there are more than a hundred blanks to a prize, It is poffible that one boy in a hundred may avail himself of them, but what will be the fate of the ninety and nine? If their difpofitions be paffive and complying, they are in great danger of becoming fervile and dependent; if fpirited and generous, they will in fubfequent life endeavour to affociate with their former schoolfellows on terms of equality with refpect to expence, they will affect their manner of living, and adopt their extravagance. It is needlefs to point out the confequence. The debt and ruin in which fo many young men of small fortunes, especially at the universities, are every day involving themselves, are too certain proofs of what we have advanced.

But the most powerful argument, and that which fupercedes every other in favour of private education, is, that the morals of the pupil are in lefs danger from the contagion of vicious example, and from the opportunities of gratification. In a public fchool, where numbers are in confederacy, Argus himself could not have his eyes upon them all. Opportunities will offer, of which they will certainly avail themselves, and which no vigilance can on every occafion guard againft. It is not, indeed, to be denied that vice will infinuate itself even into the most private feminaries; yet, furely its inroads may be more effectually oppofed by him who has but one or two to attend to, than by the preceptor whofe attention is diftracted by, and divided among, a multitude, daily diverging from the moral line in every direction.

With respect to that part of the argument which fuppofes, that when a boy, who has been under the reftraint of a wellconducted domeftic education, is fent to the univerfity, he will become more vicious than his vicious affociates, who have been educated publicly, we muft totally diffent from it. In this instance we fhall not oppofe argument to argument, but obfervation to obfervation. We have ever remarked that they whofe minds were, on entering at the univerfity, beft. ftored with prin

ciples of virtue, have generally carried away with them when they left it, a proportionable fhare of the principles they brought along with them. We muft further declare, and from actual obfervation too, that they, of whom this has been remarked, have moft frequently been (allowing for the disparity of num bers) those who were educated privately.

It must not, however, be inferred that we are blind to the advantages of public education, or that we are not convinced of its neceffity. Without public fchools, education would be confined to few, or at the best but imperfectly conducted. It is but a small part of the community that can afford the expence of private education; but few men, properly qualified for the tafk, can be prevailed upon to undertake it; and laftly, it is not every parent who is capable, even if they were fo difpofed, of concur ring with the preceptor in his arduous employment; and without such concurrence, the preceptor's labour would be in danger of being perpetually counteracted. All that we contend for is, that private education, when properly conducted, poffeffes, in the present state of things, advantages which are rather to be wifhed for than expected from any fyftem of public education that has yet been adopted.

Mr. Knox is of opinion, that boys ought to be kept at school till nineteen. In this, it is probable, he may be right; yet, furely, it is not neceffary, as he seems to think, that claffical ftudies fhould in a manner occupy their whole time till that period. The elementary parts, at leaft, of much useful knowledge might before that age be acquired, without retarding their progress in letters. The portion of human life which he would affign to the acquifition of languages, feems too much to devote to a fingle purfuit. Milton, who was not without experience on this fubject, entertained very different fentiments. He, it must be confeffed, runs into a contrary extreme; expecting from the generality of boys the performance of what nothing but the capacity of fuch a one as he was could have been equal to.

Mr. Knox's work is divided into forty fections, befides an Introductory Effay, and another at the conclufion. By this methodical divifion, which, in a didactical work of this kind, is of fingular utility; nothing is omitted that has any relation to his fubject.

Our limits not permitting us to give a regular analysis of this performance, we fhall content ourselves with laying before our Readers the two following fections,-the importance of the fubjects difcuffed in them will fufficiently apologise for their length-The firft is on the Paffions and Vices of Boys:

Whoever has had experience among young people, will have remarked, how early, and with what violence, the vicious propenfities

-B 4

of

« EelmineJätka »