Зображення сторінки




ENGLISHMEN, it must be owned, are bunglers in the matter of education. “I consider a human soul," says Addison, “ without education, like marble in the quarry, which shows none of its inherent beauties till the skill of the polisher fetches out the colours, makes the surface shine, and discovers every ornament, cloud, spot, and vein, that runs through the body of it.” Now, it is not to be denied that as far as studios, workshops, sculptors, polishers, and indefatigable industry, are concerned, no nation in the world evinces a heartier desire to furbish up the human soul than the people of our own well-meaning island. We will not allow that we are not from one end of the country as busy as bees, grinding away at the surface of the rising generation, searching for the ornaments, exhibiting the clouds, and fixing the spots and veins that run through the body of that living marble from which it is the joy of the artist "to clear away superfluous matter" and “to remove rubbish,” in order that the great, the wise, and the good, may be simply " disinterred and brought to light.” The machinery at command is immense, the disposition to turn out a creditable article undoubted, the expense incurred frightful. Bat with all our solemn labour and our good intentions and our evident conceit, we don't get on. Our most elegant marbles we send for extra polish to Oxford or Cambridge, and, for the most part, blocks they go in and blocks they come out. Exceptional specimens no doubt there are, worthy to be cherished and certain of eternal regard : statues that will find niches in every land, and honour in every age. But the bulk of the stone does not adequately represent either the money, the time, or the supposed labour spent in improving its quality. A man takes his degree at twenty-two years of age or thereabouts. Of those most precious two and twenty years, at least fourteen have been passed in that most interesting process figuratively described by the essayist. What ought not to be accomplished by a fourteen years' devotion to one pursuit—a fifth part of life, and that part the freshest, the keenest, the most susceptible, and the least embarrassed and troubled ? Tell a man of thirty that you will provide for his temporal wants until his forty-fourth year—that you will furnish him, moreover, with the means of acquiring specific knowledge throughout that lengthened period—what a monument of erudition you would have at the end of the double apprenticeship! But what species of monuments are the stones already referred to, which after all their polishing - are conveyed to the learned professions and to the big world in which they are destined permanently to stand? Are our students generally fit to grapple with their fellow men ? is the fruit of knowledge ripe within them ? is the intellectual and moral result of the past ready to serve as capital for creating new harvest in the future? It is just 150 years since a very sensible man suggested



the propriety of making learning in our great academic institutions “advantageous to the meanest capacities." He was an Oxford man, and could, no doubt, write excellent Latin verses. But he saw months and years wasted by boys and men, both at school and in college, in the impossible acquirement of classical and scientific accomplishments, and he called upon his countrymen to rescue mediocrity from its bondage, and the majority of learners from the melancholy taskwork which could neither serve them in the next world nor prepare

them for


useful or remunerative occupation in this. It is really melan. choly to think that a century and a half have elapsed with this good man's prayers still unfulfilled, and the youthful descendants of the objects of his solicitude hardly a whit better off than their decayed ancestors. The majority of our grammar schools are still jogging along in the old classical ruts, and our universities are very much affronted if you only hint the propriety of teaching youth, who, do what you will, will not be men of letters, to be simply men of business, of sense, of practical knowledge, and of the world.

At the other end of society we are just as sapient. The marble wants rubbing up there, Heaven knows; and we should be sorry to ask any expert mathematician how many centuries it would take to put the necessary amount of polish upon our needy fellow-creatures, too ignorant and poor to help themselves, supposing that the nation set heartily to its work this very day. Not that we entertain the slightest hope that any enlightened and combined effort will be made by this professedly Christian community, either this day, or this day twenty years,


to remove from the nation the stigma and disgrace of neglecting the best interests of its poor, or to mitigate the fearful temptations to self-indulgence and crime that assail at all times the souls of the uninformed and the unreflecting. We are just now very much occupied in discussing that highly interesting question, whether “stone-polishing" means education or simply instruction, and it will take a very long time before that can be satisfactorily settled. Then we have to consider who are to be the polishers; and that is a terrible problem, for everybody wants to be rubbing up somebody else's marble, and nobody is content to labour as diligently he

may in his own quarry, and to trouble his busy neighbour with nothing more than his blessing. We are so exquisitely susceptible, too, on the score of religion, that, rather than not educate the


in the faith we approve, we will suffer them to derive no advantage from any faith whatever. We have all of us patent bread for the starving, but we love our patents so much more than we feel for the famished that we will permit the latter positively to die before our faces if we are forbidden to exhibit the virtues of the former. We blush to think how much money is yearly spent in every class of society for the purposes of education, and how cruelly misapplied are the almost incalculable funds. Teaching is not our forte. We know the authorities of Oxford and Cambridge repudiate the idea, but they will live to alter their opinion. Splendid colleges, well endowed masterships, snug fellowships, and the best brewed ale in England, are great and undoubted facts, but not irrefragable arguments in their favour.



Neither are reading and writing unanswerable tests of a sound popular education. Till we can discipline the mind of the multitude, give it the power and the habit of governing itself as well as teaching itself

, release it, so to speak, from the iron bondage of utter ignorance, and withdraw from it the veil of utter darkness,—till we can reach the moral sense and inspire poverty with self-respect, self-knowledge, selfreliance, and the courage to pursue paths open to the meanest as well as the highest,—we have not achieved the education of the people or attempted a task which it is quite possible to perform without infringing upon the prerogatives of the rich or raising the spirit of discontented impatience in the bosoms of the poor.

One admirable mode of raising the intellectual tastes of all classes and of conveying valuable instruction to minds able and willing to receive it, has presented itself of late years to the notice of constituted authority, and has been suffered to pass unused in a manner highly characteristic of this enlightened nation. The revolution effected in the habits of the people by the introduction of railroads is too evident to be insisted upon. It is certain that we are all on the move. Folks travel now, not only because their business urges them abroad, but because the facilities of locomotion are too tempting to suffer them to remain at home. Just as the humble, who never wrote letters under the old postage system, now open the floodgates of their affections once or twice a-week, indulging in twopennyworth of correspondence and ten shillings' worth of gratification and delight, so do the poorer

« НазадПродовжити »