« VorigeDoorgaan »
perly considered, they would not have thus extolled an education begun in fatigue and hardships. Peter the great, willing to inure the children of his seamen to a life of hardship, ordered that they should drink only sea water, but they unfortunately all died under the experiment.
But while I would exclude all unnecessary labours, yet still I would recommend temperance in the highest degree. No luxurious dishes, with high seasoning, nothing given children to force an appetite, as little sugared or salted provisions as possible, though never so pleasing; but milk, morning and night, should be their constant food. This diet would make them more healthy than any of those slops that are usually cooked by the mistress of a boarding school; besides, it corrects any consumptive habits, not unfrequently found amongst the children of city parents.
As boys should be educated with temperance, so the first greatest lesson that should be taught them is to admire frugality. It is by the exercise of this virtue alone they can ever expect to be useful members of society. It is true, lectures continually repeated upon this subject may make some boys, when they grow up, run into an extreme, and become misers; but it were well had we more misers than we have among us. I know few characters more useful in society, for a man's having a larger or smaller share of money lying useless by him no way injures the common wealth, since, should every miser now exhaust his stores, this might make gold more plenty, but it would not increase the commodities or pleasures of life; they would still re, main as they are at present: it matters not, therefore, whether men are misers or not, if they be only frugal, laborious, and fill the station they have chosen. If they deny themselves the necessaries of life, society is no way injured by their folly.
Instead, therefore, of romances, which praise young men of spirit, who go through a variety of adventures,
and at last conclude a life of dissipation, folly, and extravagance in riches and matrimony, there should be some men of wit employed to compose books that might equally interest the passions of our youth; where such a one might be praised for having resisted allurements when young, and how he at last became lord mayor; how he was married to a lady of great sense, fortune, and beauty to be as explicit as possible, the old story of Whittington, were his cat left out, might be more serviceable to the tender mind, than either Tom Jones, Joseph Andrews, or a hundred others, where frugality is the only good quality the hero is not possessed of. Were our schoolmasters, if any of them had sense enough to draw up such a work, thus em ployed, it would be much more serviceable to their pupils, than all the grammars and dictionaries they may publish these ten years.
Children should early be instructed in the arts from which they would afterwards draw the greatest advan tages. When the wonders of nature are never exposed to our view, we have no great desire to become ac quainted with those parts of learning which pretend to account for the phænomena. One of the ancients com plains, that as soon as young men have left school, and are obliged to converse in the world, they fancy themselves transported into a new region. Ut cum in forum
venerint existiment se in aliam terrarum orbem delatos. We should early therefore instruct them in the expe riments, if I may so express it, of knowledge, and leave to maturer age the accounting for the causes. But instead of that, when boys begin natural philosophy in colleges, they have not the least curiosity for those parts of the science which are proposed for their instruction; they have never before seen the phænomena, and consequently have no curiosity to learn the reasons. Migh natural philosophy, therefore, be made their pastime
in school, by this means it would in college become their amusement.
In several of the machines now in use, there would be ample field both for instruction and amusement; the different sorts of the phosphorus, the artificial pyrites, magnetism, electricity, the experiments upon the rarefaction and weight of the air, and those upon elastic bodies, might employ their idle hours, and none should be called from play to see such experiments but such as thought proper. At first then it would be sufficient if the instruments, and the effects of their combination were only shown; the causes should be deferred to a maturer age, or to those times when natural curiosity prompts us to discover the wonders of nature. Man is placed in this world as a spectator; when he is tired with wondering at all the novelties about him, and not till then, does he desire to be made acquainted with the causes that create those wonders.
What I have observed with regard to natural philosophy, I would extend to every other science whatsoever. We should teach them as many of the facts as were possible, and defer the causes until they seemed of themselves desirous of knowing them. A mind thus leaving school, stored with all the simple experiences of science, would be the fittest in the world for the college course; and though such a youth might not appear so bright, or so talkative, as those who had learned the real principles and causes of some the sciences, yet he would make a wiser man, and would retain a more lasting passion for letters, than he who was early burdened with the disagreeable institution of effect and
In history, such stories alone should be laid before them as might catch the imagination; instead of this, they are too frequently obliged to toil through the four empires, as they are called, where their memories are burdened by a number of disgusting names, that de
stroy all their future relish for our best historians, who may be termed the truest teachers of wisdom.
Every species of flattery should be carefully avoided; a boy, who happens to say a sprightly thing, is generally applauded so much, that he happens to continue a coxcomb sometimes all his life after. He is reputed a wit at fourteen, and becomes a blockhead at twenty. Nurses, footmen, and such, should therefore be driven away as much as possible. I was even going to add, that the mother herself should stifle her pleasure, or her vanity, when little master happens to say a good or a smart thing. Those modest lubberly boys, who seem to want spirit, generally go through their business with more ease to themselves, and more satisfaction to their instructors.
There has of late a gentleman appeared, who thinks the study of rhetoric essential to a perfect education. That bold male eloquence, which often, without pleasing, convinces, is generally destroyed by such institutions. Convincing eloquence, however, is infinitely more serviceable to its possessor than the most florid harangue or the most pathetic tones that can be imagined; and the man who is thoroughly convinced himself, who understands his subject, and the language he speaks in, will be more apt to silence opposition, than he who studies the force of his periods, and fills our ears with sounds, while our minds are destitute of conviction.
It was reckoned the fault of the orators at the decline of the Roman empire, when they had been long instructed by rhetoricians, that their periods were so harmonious, as that they could be sung as well as spoken. What a ridiculous figure must one of these gentlemen cut thus measuring syllables, and weighing words, when he should plead the cause of his client! Two architects were once candidates for the building a certain temple at Athens. The first harangued the crowd
very learnedly upon the different orders of architecture, and showed them in what manner the temple should be built; the other, who got up to speak after him, only observed, that what his brother had spoken he could do; and thus he at once gained his cause.
To teach men to be orators is little less than to teach them to be poets; and, for my part, I should have too great a regard for my child, to wish him a manor only in a bookseller's shop.
Another passion which the present age is apt to run into, is to make children learn all things; the languages, the sciences, music, the exercises, and painting. Thus the child soon becomes a talker in all, but a master in none. He thus acquires a superficial fondness for every thing, and only shows his ignorance when he attempts to exhibit his skill.
As I deliver my thoughts without method or connection, so the reader must not be surprized to find me once more addressing schoolmasters on the present method of teaching the learned languages, which is commonly by literal translations. I would ask such, if they were to travel a journey, whether those parts of the road in which they found the greatest difficulties would not be most strongly remembered? Boys who, if I may continue the allusion, gallop through one of the ancients with the assistance of a translation, can have but a very slight acquaintance either with the author or his language. It is by the exercise of the mind alone that a language is learned; but a literal translation on the opposite page leaves no exercise for the memory at all. The boy will not be at the fatigue of remembering, when his doubts are at once satisfiedby a glance of the eye; whereas, were every word to be sought from a dictionary, the learner would attempt to remember, in order to save him the trouble of looking out for it for the future.