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There is more knowledge to be acquired from one page of the volume of mankind, if the scholar only knows how to read, than in volumes of antiquity. We grow learned, not wise, by too long continuance at college.
This points out the time in which we should leave the university. Perhaps the age of twenty-one, when at our universities the first degree is generally taken, is the proper period.
The universities of Europe may be divided into three classes. Those upon the old scholastic establishment, where the pupils are immured, talk nothing but Latin, and support every day syllogistical disputations in school philosophy. Would not one be apt to imagine this was the proper education to make a man a fool ? Such are the universities of Prague, Louvain, and Padua. The second is, where the pupils are under few restrictions, where all scholastic jargon is banished, where they take a degree when they think proper, and live not in the college, but the city. Such are Edinburgh, Leyden, Gottingen, Geneva. The third is a mixture of the two former, where the pupils are restrained, but not confined; where many, though not all, the absurdities of scholastic philosophy are suppressed, and where the first degree is taken after four years' matriculation. Such are Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin.
As for the first class, their absurdities are too apparent to admit of a parallel. It is disputed which of the two last are more conducive to national improvement.
Skill in the professions is acquired more by practice than study; two or three years may be sufficient for learning their rudiments. The universities of Edin. burgh, &c., grant a license for practicing them when the student thinks proper, which our universities refuse till after a residence of several years.
The dignity of the professions may be supported by this dilatory proceeding; but many men of learning are thus too long excluded from the lucrative advantages, which superior skill has a right to expect.
Those universities must certainly be most frequented, which promise to give in two years, the advantages which others will not under twelve.
The man who has studied a profession for three years, and practiced it for nine more, will certainly koow more of his business than he who has only studied it for twelve.
The universities of Edinburgh, &c., must certainly be most proper for the study of those professions in which men choose to turn their learning to profit as soon as possible.
The universities of Oxford, &c., are improper for this, since they keep the student from the world, which, after a certain time, is the only true school of improvement.
When a degree in the professions can be taken only by men of independent fortunes, the number of candidates in learning is lessened, and, consequently, the advancement of learning retarded.
This slowness of conferring degrees is a remnant of scholastic barbarity. Paris, Louvain, and those universities which still retain their ancient institutions, confer the doctor's degree slower even than we.
The statutes of every university should be considered as adapted to the laws of its respective government. Those should alter as these happen to fluctuate.
Four years spent in the arts, (as they are called in colleges,) is perhaps laying too laborious a foundation. Entering a profession without any previous acquisitions of this kind, is building too bold a superstructure.
Countries wear very different appearances to travelers of different circumstances. A man who is whirled through Europe in a post-chaise, and the pilgrim who walks the grand tour on foot, will form very different conclu. sions.*
To see Europe with advantage, a man should appear in various circumstances of fortune; but the experiment would be too dangerous for young men.
There are many things relative to other countries which can be learned to more advantage at home; their laws and policies are among the number.
The greatest advantages which result to youth from travel, are an easy address, the shaking off national prejudices, and the finding nothing ridiculous in national peculiarities.
The time spent in these acquisitions could have been more usefully employed at home. An education in a college seems therefore preferable.-- Present state of Polite Learning. 1759.
CHARACTERISTICS OF DIFFERENT UNIVERSITIES. We attribute to universities either too much or too little. Some assert that they are the only proper places to advance learning; while others deny even their utility in forming an education. Both are erroneous.
Learning is most advanced in populous cities, where chance often conspires with industry to promote it; where the members of this large university, if I may so call it, catch manners as they rise; study life, not logic, and have the world for correspondents.
The greatest number of universities have ever been founded in times of the greatest ignorance.
New improvements in learning are seldom adopted in colleges until admitted everywhere else. And this is right: we should always be cautious of teaching the rising generation uncertainties for truth. Thus, though the professors in universities have been too frequently found to oppose the advancement of learning, yet, when once established, they are the properest persons to diffuse it.
* In the first edition our author added, Haud inespertus loquor ; for he traveled through France, &c., on foot. In his sketch of Baron Holberg, he gives an example of the advan. tages which may be derived by even a poor student from foreign travel.
* This was, perhaps, one of the most extraordinary personages that has done honor to the present century. His being the son of a private sentinel did not abate the ardor of his am. bition, for he learned to read, though without a master. Upon the death of his father, being left entirely destitute, he was involved in all that distress which is common among the poor, and of which the great have scarcely any idea. However, though only a boy of nine years old, he still persisted in pursuing his studies, traveled about from school to school, and beg. ged his learning and his bread. When at the age of seventeen, instead of applying himself to any of the lower occupations, which seem best adapted to such circumstances, he was resolved to travel for improvement from Norway, the place of his birth, to Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark. He lived there by teaching French, at the same time avoiding no opportunity of improvement that his scanty funds could permit. But his ambition was not to be restrained, or his thirst of knowledge satisfied, until he had seen the world. Without money, recommendations, or friends, he undertook to set out upon his travels, and make the tour of Europe on foot. A good voice, and a triding skill in music, were the only finances he had to support an undertaking so extensive; so he traveled by day, and at night sung at the doors of peasants' houses to get himself a lodging. In this manner, while yet very young, Holberg passed through France, Germany, and Holland ; and coming over to England, took up his residence for two years in the university of Oxford. Here he subsisted by teaching French and music, and wrote his universal history, his earliest, but worst performance. Furnished with all the learning of Europe, he at last thought proper to return to Copenha. gen, where his ingenious productions quickly gained him that favor he deserved."
Teaching by lecture, as at Edinburgh, may make men sebolars, if they think proper; but instructing by examination, as at Oxford, will make them so often against their inclination.
Edinburgh only disposes the student to receive learning; Oxford often makes him actually learned
In a word, were I poor, I should send my son to Leyden or Edinburgh, though the annual expense in each, particularly in the first, is very great. Were I rich, I would send him to one of our own universities. By an education received in the first, he has the best likelihood of living; by that received in the latter, he has the best chance of becoming great.
We have of late heard much of the necessity of studying oratory. Vespasian was the first who paid professors of rhetoric for publicly instructing youth at Rome. However, those pedants never made an orator.
The best orations that ever were spoken were pronounced in the parliaments of King Charles the First. These men never studied the rules of oratory.
Mathematics are, perhaps, too much studied at our universities. This seems a science to which the meanest intellects are equal.* I forget who it is that says, "All men might understand mathematics, if they would."
The most methodical manner of lecturing, whether on morals or nature, is, first rationally to explain, and then produce the experiment. The most instructive method is to show the experiment first; curiosity is then excited, and attention awakened to every subsequent deduction. Hence it is evident, that in a well formed education, a course of history should ever precede a course of ethics.
The sons of our nobility are permitted to enjoy greater liberties in our universities than those of private men. I should blush to ask the men of learning and virtue who preside in our seminaries, the reason of such a prejudicial distinction. Our youth should there be inspired with a love of philosophy; and the first maxim among philosophers is, that merit only makes distinction.
Whence has proceeded the vain magnificence of expensive architecture in our colleges ? Is it that men study to more advantage in a palace than in a cell? One single performance of taste or genius confers more real honors on its parent university, than all the labors of the chisel.
Surely pride itself has dictated to the fellows of our colleges the absurd passion of being attended at meals, and on other public occasions, by those poor men who, willing to be scholars, come in upon some charitable foundation. It implies a contradiction, for men to be at once learning the liberal arts, and at the same time treated as slaves ; at once studying freedom, and practicing servitude.
This is partly true, but not to the extent which is implied in our author's general assertion. The elements of the science may certainly be acquired without any extraordinary share of intellect; but surely distinguished proficiency in the higher branches of mathematics implies something more than the industrious efforts of the “meanest intellects." Gold. smith himself was a very indifferent mathematician; and this will perhaps account sufficiently for his attempt to underrate the importance of the science, and his wish to consider its acquisition as the despicable triumph of plodding mediocrity.- Bohn.
For a full and able discussion of the claims of mathematics in a course of liberal studies, sce Sir William Hamilton's Miscellanies.
XI. SAMUEL JOHNSON 1714-1786
THOUGHTS ON EDUCATION AND CONDUCT.
Gathered from his Conversations reported by Boswell.
OPINION ON HIS OWN EDUCATION. JOHNSON himself began to learn Latin with Mr. Hawkins, usher, or undermaster of Litchfield school, "A man (said he) very skillful in his little way."With him he continued two years, and then rose to be under the care of Mr. Hunter, the head-master, who, according to his account, “was very severe, and wrong-headedly severe. He used (said he) to beat us unmercifully; and he did not distinguish between ignorance and negligence; for he would beat a boy equally for not knowing a thing, as for neglecting to know it. He would ask a boy a question; and if he did not answer him, he would beat him, without considering whether he had an opportunity of knowing how to answer it; for in. m stance, he would call upon a boy and ask him in Latin for a candlestick, wbich the boy could not expect to be asked. Now, Sir, if a boy could answer every uqe 10, question, there would be no need of a master to teach him."
Johnson, however, was very sensible how much he owed to Mr. Hunter. Mr. Langton one day asked him how he acquired so accurate a knowledge of Latin, in which he was thought not to be exceeded by any man of his time. He said, “My master whipt me very well. Without that, Sir, I should have done nothing." He also told Mr. Langton, that while Hunter was flogging his boys unmercifully, he used to say, “And this I do to save you from the gallows." Johnson, upon all occasions, expressed his approbation of enforcing instruction by means of the rod. "I would rather have the rod the general terror of all, to make them learn, than tell a child, if you do thus, or thus, you will be more esteemed than your brothers or sisters. The rod produces an effect that terminates in itself. A child is afraid of being whipped, and gets his task, and there's an end on't; whereas, by exciting emulation and comparisons of superiority, you lay the foundation of lasting mischief; you make brothers and sisters hate each other."
INFLUENCE OF EDUCATION. He allowed very great influence to education. “I do not deny but there is some original difference in minds; but it is nothing in comparison of what is formed by education. We may instance the science of numbers, which all minds are equally capable of attaining; yet we find a prodigious difference in the powers of different men, in that respect, after they are grown up, because their minds have been more or less exercised in it; and I think the same cause will explain the difference of excellence in other things, gradations admitting always some difference in the first principles."
SCHEME* FOR THE CLASSES OF A GRAMMAR SCHOOL. "When the introduction, or formation of nouns and verbs, is perfectly mas. tered, let them learn
Corderius, by Mr. Clarke, beginning at the same time to translate out of the introduction, that by this means they may learn the syntax. Then let them proceed to
Erasmus, with an English translation, by the same author.
The second class learns Eutropius and Cornelius Nepos, or Justin, with the translation.
N. B. The first class gets for their part every morning the rules which they have learned before, and in the afternoon learns the Latin rules of the nouns and verbs.
They are examined in the rules which they have learned every Thursday and Saturday.
The second class does the same whilst they are in Eutropius; afterwards their part is in the irregular nouns and verbs, and in the rules for making and scanning verses. They are examined as the first.
The third class learns Ovid's Metamorphoses in the morning, and Cæsar's Commentaries in the afternoon.
Practice in the Latin rules till they are perfect in them; afterwards in Mr. Leed's Greek Grammar. Examined as before.
Afterwards they proceed to Virgil, beginning at the same time to writo themes and verses and to learn Greek; from thence passing on to Horace, &c., as shall seem most proper."
SCHEME FOR THE STUDIES OF A STUDENT FITTING FOR THE UNIVERSITY. "I know not well what books to direct you to, because you have not informed me what study you will apply yourself to. I believe it will be most for your advantage to apply yourself wholly to the languages, till you go to the University. The Greek authors I think it best for you to read are these :
Attic and Doric. Thus you will be tolerably skilled in all the dialects, beginning with the Attic, to which the rest must be referred.
In the study of Latin, it is proper not to read the latter authors, till you are well versed in those of the purist ages; as Terence, Tully, Cæsar, Sallust, Nepos, Velleius Paterculus, Virgil, Horace, Phædrus.
The greatest and most necessary task still remains, to attain a habit of expression, without which knowledge is of little use. This is necessary in Latin, and more necessary in English; and can only be acquired by a daily imitation of the best and correctest authors."
STUDY OF GREEK AND LATIN. "Dr. Johnson and I one day took a sculler at the Temple stairs, and set out