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'mankind,—and that it is altogether Utopian to attempt to direct the moral and intellectual energies of the human race into any other channel than that in which they have hitherto been accustomed to flow. Such Insinuations evidently flow from a spirit of misanthropy, and are intended, if possible, to fix the moral world in a quiescent state, as the material world was supposed to be in former times, and to damp every exertion that is now making to promote the improvement and the happiness of our species. They are likewise inconsistent with the dictates of Divine Revelation, which plainly declare that "the knowledge of Jehovah shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the channels of the seas," and that "all shall know him, from the least to the greatest."
In a work lately published, I have endeavoured to illustrate, at considerable length, gome of the advantages which would result from a general diffusion of knowledge, which, I presume, will tend to substantiate the position, that an increase of knowledge among all ranks would be productive of an increase of enjoyment. If a more extensive diffusion of knowledge would have a tendency to dissipate those superstitious notions and false alarms which have so long enslaved the minds of men—to prevent numerous diseases and fatal accidents—to accelerate the improvement of the physical sciences—to increase the pleasures and enjoyments of mankind—to promote the progress of the liberal and mechanical arts —to administer to the comforts of general society—to prepare the way for new inventions and discoveries—to expand our views of the attributes and moral government of the Deity—to advance the interests of morality—to prepare the mind for the pleasures and employments of the future world —to promote a more extensive acquaintance with the evidences, facts, and doctrines, of Revelation—to prepare the way for the establishment of peace and harmony among the nations, and to promote the union and the extension of the Christian church;—if such positions can be fairly proved, every philanthropist and every rational and welldirected mind will readily admit, that a more general cultivation of the human intellect, and a more extensive diffusion of rational information, are highly desirable, and would be productive of the most auspicious and beneficial results, in reference both to the present interests and the future prospects of mankind.
With regard to the practicability of this object, no rational doubt can be entertained, if the moral machinery requisite for its accomplishment were once thoroughly set
in motion. Whatever Man has hitherto achieved, Man may still accomplish. If minds, once feeble and benighted, and ignorant as the wild ass's colt, have, by proper training, been raised near the highest piteh of moral and intellectual attainments, other minds, by similar training, may be elevated to the fame degree of perfection. If nations, once rude and ignorant, as the Britons formerly were, have been raised to a state of civilization and refinement, and excited to cultivate the arts and sciences, the same means by which this object was accomplished, may still be employed in other cases to produce the same effect. If several portions, however small, of any civilized community, have been brought to a high state of intellectual improvement, it is evident, that the greater part, if not the whole, may be advanced into a similar state. It only requires that the means of instruction be simplified and extended, and brought within the reach of every one whose faculties are capable of cultivation. That this object has never yet been effected, is not owing to its impracticability, or to any insuperable obstacles which lie in the way of its accomplishTnent; but because the attention of mankind has never yet been thoroughly directed to it: and because the means requisite for promoting it have never been employed on a scale proportionate to the extent and magnitude of the enterprise. The influential classes of society, in every country, have been more absorbed in the pursuits of avarice, ambition, war, devastation, and sensual gratifications, than in meliorating the physical and moral condition of their species. The tenth part of the treasures which have been wasted in the prosecution of such mad and immoral pursuits, had it been properly directed, would have been more than sufficient to have brought the means of instruction within the reach of every individual of the human race, and to have transformed the barren wastes of every country into the appearance of a terrestrial paradise. There is no government under heaven, so far as we are acquainted, (if Prussia and the United States of America be not excepted,) where the instruction of the great mass of the people forms a prominent and specific object in its administration. On the contrary, in several instances, even within the limits of Europe, it is well known, that the intellectual instruction of the lower orders is prohibited by a law.* Even in Great Britain, where
* For example,—A royal Sardinian edict, published in 1825, enjoins, *• that henceforth no person shall learn fo read or write who cannot prove the possession of property above the value of 1M> the light of science shines with peculiar effulgence, the exertions of philanthropists have been damped in their attempts to diffuse knowledge among the people; heavy taxes have been imposed on the means of its diffusion; men of knowledge have been persecuted and neglected, while men devoted to war and bloodshed have been loaded with wealth, and exalted to the highest stations of dignity and honour; no national scheme, supported by the state, has ever yet been devised for its universal propagation among all ranks, and no sums sot apart for this purpose, while the treasures of the nation have been wasted in extravagance, and, in too many instances, devoted to the support of vice, tyranny, and intolerance.
But we trust that the breath of a new spirit is now beginning to animate the councils of the nation and the great body of the people;—and when the means within our power of extending the blessings of know
Uvres," or about £65 10». sterling. And it is well known, that the greater part of the lower classes in Russia, Austria, and Poland, are, from their situation, debarred from the benefits of instrue
ledge shall be employed with eneigy and judgment, we may expect, ere long, to behold a generation rising up, in intelligence and moral action, superior to all the generations that have gone before it—improving the soil, adorning the landscape, promoting the progress of the useful arts, enlarging the boundaries of science, diffusing the blessings of Christianity over the globe, giving an impulse to every philanthropic movement, counteracting the spirit of war, ambition, and licentiousness, cultivating peace and friendly correspondence with surrounding nations, and forming an impregnable bulwark around every government where the throne is established in truth and in righteousness.
To state and illustrate the various means by which a more extensive diffusion of knowledge may be effected, and the general improvement of society promoted, is the main object of the following pages, in which the state of education in our country, and the principles on which it ought to be conducted, shall occupy our first, and our chief attention.
Turns is, perhaps, nothing of more importance to the human race, and which has a more direct bearing on the happiness of all ranks, than the cultivation of the mental faculties, and the acquisition of substantial knowledge. Whether we consider man as a transitory inhahitant of this lower world, or as in a state of progression to another region of existence—it is of the utmost importance, that he be thoroughly acquainted with the Great Author of his existence, with the general structure of the universe in which he is placed, with the relations in which he stands to his fellow-men, and the other beings which surround him, with the duties he ought to discharge to his Creator, and to his own species, with the nature of that eternal world to which he is destined, and with that train of action and of contemplation which will prepare him for the enjoyments of a future and eternal state. All the other objects which can employ the attention of the human mind must evidently be viewed as in some degree subordinate to these. For, on the acquisition of the knowledge to which we allude, and the corresponding course of conduct to which it leads, depends the happiness of man, considered both as an individual, and as a member of the great family to which he belongs—his happiness both in the present life, and in the life to' tome.
Nothing, however, appears to have been more overlooked, in the general arrangements of society, than the selection of the most proper means by which such important ends are to be accomplished. In those nations and societies which, in their progress from barbarity, have arrived at only a half-civilized state, the acquisition of the means of subsistence, and of those romforts which promote then nensiuve enjoyment, forms almost the exclusive object of pursuit; and it is not before they have arrived at a certain stage of civilization, that moral and intellectual improvement becomes an object of general attention. And, even in those nations which have advanced farthest in the path of science and of social refinement, the cultivation of the human mind, and the details of educa
tion, are not considered in that serious light which their importance demands. Almost every thing else is attempted to be accurately adjusted, while the moral and intellectual improvement of the mass of the community is left either to the direction of chance, or to the injudicious schemes of weak and ignorant minds. Every one who has acquired a smattering of English grammar and arithmetic, and who can write his own name, conceives that he is qualified to conduct the intellectual improvement of the young; the most illiterate and superficial pedants have intruded themselves into the office of teachers; those who have never had the least experience in the art of teaching, nor have studied its principles, have assumed the prerogative of dictating the arrangements and discipline of a school; and hence, the office of a teacher of youth, which is one of the most important and respectable in the social system, has frequently been considered as connected with the meanest talents, and with the lowest gradations in society.
Great Britain has long held a distinguished rank among the nations of Europe in the scale of science and of civilization, and on account of the numerous seminaries of instruction which have been established in every quarter of the island. Excepting Prussia, the United States of America, and the mountains and vales of Switzerland, there are few countries in which education is more generally appreciated and more widely diffused than in the northern district of Great Britain; and the effects produced by our literary and scholastic establishments are apparent in the desire for knowledge, and the superior intelligence which characterize the different ranks ol our population. When we compare ourselves in this respect with the Russian boors, the Laplanders, the Cslmues, the Cossacks, or the Tartars, or even with the inhahitants of Naples, of Spain, or of Portugal, we seem to stand on on eminence to which they can scarcely hope to approach for a lapse of ages. On the other hand, when we compare ourselves with what we ought to be, as beings possessed of rational natures, an 1 destined to immortality, and as surrounded with the light of science and of revelation,—we shall find that wo arc, as yet, but little more than just emerging from the gloom of moral depravity and mental darkness. When we consider the mass of depravity which is still hovering around us, the deplorable ignorance, the superstitious notions, the false conceptions in regard to many important truths, the evil passions, and the grovelling affections, which so generally prevail, we must acknowledge that much, much indeed, remains to be accomplished, before tho great body of the people lie thoroughly enlightened in the knowledge of all those subjects in which they are interested, as rational, accountable, and immortal beings, and before they can be induced to give a decided preference to moral pursuits and intellectual pleasures. And, if this is the case in a nation designated civilized and enlightened, how thick must be the darkness which broods over the inhabitants of other regions of the globe, how deep the moral debasement into which they are sunk, and how many vigorous efforts must be requisite, ere they can be raised to the true dignity of moral and intellectual agents? If ever this important object is to be accomplished—which the predictions of ancient prophecy leave us little room to doubt—it is now high time that we arouse ourselves from our slumbers, and engage with increased activity and zeal in the work of reformation and of rational instruction. Let us not imagine that the preaching of the gospel, in the dull and formal manner by which it is at present characterized, will effectuate this great object, without the use of all the efficient means of juvenile instruction we can devise. While we boast of tho privileges of our favoured land, of the blessings of Divine Revelation, and of the enlightened era in which we live; and while we are endeavouring to impart to distant nations the blessings of science and of the Christian religion;—let us not forget, that there are thousands of the young generation around us, under tho show of having obtained a good education, rising up in life, in a state of ignorance and vice, in consequence of the superficial and injudicious modes by which they have been tutored, and which prevent them from profiting by the instructions of the ministers of religion.
While the great body of mankind must necessarily be engaged in manual employments, and while it is essential to their happiness, as well as to their bodily subsistence, that a portion of their time be thus employed,—it would be a highly desirable object to induce upon their minds a taste for intellectual pur
suits, and for those pure enjoyments which flow from a contemplation of the works and providence of the Creator, and of those moral laws and arrangements which he has or dained for promoting the social order and the eternal happiness of mankind, in which those hours not devoted to worldly business might be occasionally employed. As man is a being compounded of a corporeal organized structure, and a system of intellectual powers, it evidently appears to have been the intention of the Creator that he should bo frequently employed both in action and in contemplation. But when his physical powers only are set in motion, and the principal object of his activity is to supply the wants of his animal frame, he can lie considered as little superior to the lower orders of animated existence, and must, in a great measure, frustrate the end of the Creator in bestowing upon him the faculties of his rational- nature.
In order to raise mankind from the state of mental darkness and moral degradation into which they have fallen, it is essentially requisite, that the utmost care be bestowed on the proper direction of the youthful mind, in its first excursions in the physical and moral world; for when it has proceeded a certain length, amidst the mists of ignorance and the devious ways of vice, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recall it from its wanderings to the path of wisdom and felicity. Instructions, not merely in reference to sounds and accents, and accurate pronunciation, but also in relation to important facts, and the various properties and relations of objects around them, must be communicated at on early age; and not merely the names, but the ideas, of the most interesting objects in the physical and intellectual world, must be conveyed by a succession of welldefined mental imagery, and sensible illustrations, so as to arrest and impress the juvenile mind, and excite its energies and affections in the pursuit of knowledge and virtue. Without- an attention to this important object, the business of elementary instruction appears to regard man rather as a mere machine than as a rational and immortal being, and seems to be little short of an insult offered to the human understanding. The ultimate object of all scholastic instruction ought undoubtedly to be, to convey to youthful minds substantial knowledge, to lead them gradually into a view of the nature and qualities of the objects with which they are surrounded, of the general appearances, motions, and machinery of external nature, of the moral relations in which they stand to the Great Author of their existence, and to one another, and of the various duties which flow from these relations,—to direct their affections, tempers, and passions, in such a channel as will tend to promote their own comfort, and the harmony of general society, and to prepare them for the nobler employments of an immortal existence. Such moral and intellectual instructions ought to go hand in hand with the acquisition of the various combinations of sounds and syllables, and with the mechanical exercises of writing and ciphering; otherwise the beneficial consequences, which should result from instruction
in the common branches of education, will be few and unimportant. Whether the prevailing modes of education in this.country be calculated to promote the ends now stated, will appear, when we come to investigate the range of our elementary instruction, and the circumstances connected with the manner of its communication. Before proceeding to this investigation, I shall take a rapid view of the present state of education in different civilized nations.
Present state of Educatii
Fob a long period, even after the introduction of Christianity among the nations of Europe, the education of the young seems to have been in a great measure neglected. The records of history afford us no details of any particular arrangements that were made either by the church or the state for promoting this important object. During the long reign of Papal superstition and tyranny, which lasted for nearly a thousand years, the instruction of the young appears to have been entirely aet aside, or, at least, to have formed no prominent object of attention. The common people grew up, from infancy to manhood, ignorant of the most important subjects, having their understandings darkened by superstition, their moral powers perverted, and their rational faculties bewildered and degraded, by an implicit submission to the foolish ceremonies and absurdities inculcated by their ecclesiastical dictators; and even many in the higher ranks of life, distinguished for their wealth and influence in society, were so untutored in the first elements of learning, that they could neither read nor write. Ignorance was one of the foundations on which the splendour and tyranny of the Romish hierarchy were built, and therefore it would have been contrary to its policy, and the schemes it had formed of universal domination, to have concerted any measures for the diffusion of knowledge and the enlightening of mankind. We read of no nation or community, during the dark ages, that devised plans for the rational and religious instruction of youth, excepting a poor, oppressed, and despised people "of whom the world was not worthy "—the pious and intelligent, but persecuted Waldenses. It appears that a system of instruction prevailed among these inhabitants of the valleys of
„n in different Countries.
Piedmont, seven hundred years ago, mora rational and efficient than has yet been established in tho British Isles.
It was not till the era of the Reformation that seminaries for the instruction of the young began to be organized and permanently established. Prior to this period, indeed, colleges and universities had been founded in most of the countries of Christendom: but the instructions communicated in those scats of learning were chiefly confined to the priestly order, and to the sons of the nobility who aspired after the highest and most lucrative offices under the hierarchy of Rome. Their influence was scarcely felt by the mass of the people; and the origin of the earliest of these seminaries cannot be traced much beyond the beginning of the thirteenth century. These new establishments, however, with the academical honours they conferred on proficients in knowledge, gave a powerful impulse to the study of science, and greatly increased the number of those who devoted themselves to the pursuits of learning. It is said, that, in the year 1262, there were no less than ten thousand students in the university of Bologna, although law was the only science taught in it at that time; and that in the year 1340, there were thirty thousand students in the university of Oxford. But the education of the middling and lower classes of society was still miserably neglected. Even in those countries which have since been distinguished for scholastic establishments, a universal apathy seems to have prevailed, in regard to the acquisition of knowledge, and of the first elements of education. In the year 1494, a few years before Luther began to assail the Romish Church, it was enacted by the Parliament of Scotland, " that all barons and