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ART. I. Liberal Education: or, a Practical Treatife on the Methods of acquiring useful and polite Learning. By the Rev. Vicefimus Knox, A. M. Late Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford, and now Master of Tunbridge-School. 8vo. 3 s. 6d. Boards. Dilly. 1781.
NE of the firft ideas which will occur to a reader of this Treatife will be, as Mr. Knox rightly obferves, the multitude of books which has appeared on the fubject of education. Numerous, however, as have been the authors who have written on this enterefting topic, it is still far from being exhausted; as, indeed, is evident from the prefent performance, in which much is to be met with that is well worthy of remark and obfervation.
If Mr. K. amufe us not by fingularity of opinion, he, at leaft, gratifies us by his good fenfe, and the juftnefs of his fentiments. Novelty, indeed, is not be expected from a Writer on Education who means not to recommend fpeculation, but practice; not to innovate, but to reftore: his defign, in short, is to speak in favour of that ancient fyftem of education which confifts in a claffical difcipline, and which has produced in our nation many ornaments of human nature.' By claffical difcipline is meant, we prefume, the difcipline which prevails in public schools. In difcuffing the question, whether we fhould prefer public or private education, he is a warm advocate for the former.
From the time of Quintilian to the prefent day, it has remained a doubt, whether public or private education is the more conducive to valuable improvement. Quintilian approved of public education, and has fupported his opinion, as indeed he always does, with reafons which carry with them irrefiftible conviction. From the arguments VOL. LXV.
which he has ufed, and from the dictates of observation, I am fed not only to prefer public, but entirely to difapprove private education, unless under the particular circumftances which I fhall presently enu
Though, upon the whole, I prefer the education of schools, yet I know that much licentiousness has often been found in them. The prevailing manners of the age, and of the world at large, are apt to infinuate themselves into thofe feminaries of learning, which, by their feclufion from the world, might be fuppofed to be exempted from its corruptions. The fcholars bring the infection from home; and perhaps the masters themselves at length acquire a tinge from the predominant colour of the times. From whatever caufe it proceeds, it is certain that schools often degenerate with the community, and contribute greatly to increafe, by diffufing, at the most fufceptible periods of life, the general depravity. The old fcholaftic difcipline reTaxes, habits of idleness and intemperance are contracted, and the fcholar often comes from them with the acquifition of effrontery alone to compenfate for his ignorance. When I recommend public fchools, therefore, I must be understood to mean places of education where the intention of the founder is not quite forgotten, and where a degree of the more practical part of the original difcipline is still retained. Such, I truft, may be found; and fuch will increase in number, when the general diffipation, which, it is confeffed, has remarkably prevailed of late, fhall be corrected, by public diftrefs, or by fome other difpenfation of Providence.
The danger which the morals are faid to incur in fchools, is a weighty objection. I moft cordially agree with Quintilian, and with other writers on this fubject, that it is an ill exchange to give up innocence for learning. But, perhaps, it is not true, that in a well-difciplined school (and it is only fuch an one which I recommend), there is more danger of a corruption of morals than at home. I am not unacquainted with the early propenfity of the human heart to vice, and I am well aware that boys contribute greatly to each others corrup➡ tion. But I know, that the pupil who is kept at home cannot be at all hours under the immediate eye of his parent or his inftructor; it muft happen, by chance, neceffity, or neglect, that he will often affociate with menial fervants, from whofe example, especially in great and opulent families, he will not only learn meanness, but vice. But fuppofing him to be restrained from fuch communication, the examples he will fee in the world, and the temptations he will meet with in an intercourfe with various company at an early age, will affect his heart, and cause it to beat with impatience for his emancipation from that restraint which must be taken off at the approach of manhood. Then will his paffions break forth with additional violence, as the waters of a ftream which have been long confined. In the courfe of my own experience, I have known young men nearly ruined at the univerfity, who attributed their wrong conduct to the immoderate reftraint of a domeftic education. The fweets of liberty never before tafted, and the allurements of vice never before withitood, become too powerful for refiftance at an age when the paffions are all ftrong, reafon immature, and experience entirely deficient.