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RELATIVE TO THE INTENTIONS OF THE ORIGINAL FOUNDERS OF THE ACADEMY IN PHILADELPHIA. JUNE, 1789.
As the English school in the Academy has been, and still continues to be, a subject of dispute and discussion among the trustees since the restitution of the charter, and it has been proposed that we should have some regard to the original intention of the founders in establishing that school, I beg leave, for your information, to lay before you what I know of that matter originally, and what I find on the minutes relating to it, by which it will appear how far the design of that school has been adhered to or neglected.
Having acquired some little reputation among my fellow-citizens, by projecting the public library in 1732, and obtaining the subscriptions by which it was established; and by proposing and promoting, with success, sundry other schemes of utility in 1749; I was encouraged to hazard another project, that of a public education for our youth. As in the scheme of the library I had provided only for English books, so in this new scheme my ideas went no further than to procure the means of a good English education. A number of my friends, to whom I communicated the proposal, concurred with me in these ideas; but Mr. Allen, Mr. Francis, Mr. Peters, and some other persons of wealth and learning, whose subscriptions and countenance we should need, being of opinion that it ought to include the learned languages, I submitted my judgment to theirs, retaining however a strong prepossession in favor of my first plan, and resolving to preserve as much of it as I could, and to nourish the English school by every means in my power.
Before I went about to procure subscriptions, I thought it proper to prepare the minds of the people by a pamphlet, which I wrote, and printed, and distributed with my newspapers gratis. The title was, Proposals relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania. I happen to have preserved one of them; and, by reading a few passages, it will appear how much the English learning was insisted upon in it; and I had good reasons to know that this was a prevailing part of the motives for subscribing with most of the original benefactors.* I met with but few refusals in soliciting the subscriptions; and the sum was the more considerable, as I had put the contribution on this footing, that it was not to be immediate, and the whole paid at once, but in parts, a fifth annually during
* That the Rector be a man of good understanding, good morals, diligent and patient, learned in the languages and sciences, and a correct, pure speaker and writer of the English tongue; to have such tutors under him as shall be necessary.
The English language might be taught by grammar; in which some of our best writers, as Tillotson, Addison, Pope, Algernon Sidney, Cato's Letters, &c. should be classics; the styles principally to be cultivated being the clear and the concise. Reading should also be taught, and pronouncing properly, distinctly, emphatically; not with an even tone, which under-does, nor a theatrical, which over-does nature.
Mr. Locke, speaking of Grammar, (p. 252,) says, that "To those, the greatest part of whose business in this world is to be done with their tongue, and with their pens, it is convenient, if not necessary, that they should speak properly and correctly, whereby they may let their thoughts into other men's minds the more easily, and with the greater impression. Upon this account it is, that any sort of speaking, so as will make him be understood, is not thought enough for a gentleman. He ought to study grammar, among the other helps of speaking well; but it must be the grammar of his own tongue, of the language he uses, that he may understand his own country speech nicely, and speak it properly, without shocking the ears of those it is addressed to with solecisms and offensive irregularities. And to this purpose grammar is necessary; but it is the grammar only of their own proper tongues, and to those who would take pains in cultivating their language, and perfecting their styles. Whether all gentlemen should not do this, I leave to be considered; since the want of propriety and grammatical exactness is thought very misbecoming one of that rank, and usually draws on one, guilty of such faults, the imputation of having had a lower breeding and worse company than suit with his quality. If this be so, (as I suppose it is,) it will be matter of
wonder, why young gentlemen are forced to learn the grammars of foreign and dead languages, and are never once told of the grammar of their own tongues. They do not so much as know there is any such thing, much less is it made their business to be instructed in it. Nor is their own language ever proposed to them as worthy their care and cultivating, though they have daily use of it, and are not seldom in the future course of their lives judged of by their handsome or awkward way of expressing themselves in it. Whereas the languages, whose grammars they have been so much employed in, are such as probably they shall scarce ever speak or write; or, if upon occasion this should happen, they should be excused for the mistakes and faults they make in it. Would not a Chinese, who took notice of this way of breeding, be apt to imagine, that all our young gentlemen were designed to be teachers and professors of the dead languages of foreign countries, and not to be men of business in their own?"
The same author adds, (p. 255,) "That if grammar ought to be taught at any time, it must be to one that can speak the language already; how else can he be taught the grammar of it? This at least is evident from the practice of the wise and learned nations among the ancients. They made it a part of education, to cultivate their own, not foreign tongues. The Greeks counted all other nations barbarous, and had a contempt for their languages. And though the Greek learning grew in credit among the Romans towards the end of their commonwealth, yet it was the Roman tongue that was made the study of their youth. Their oxen language they were to make use of, and therefore it was their own language they were instructed and exercised in." And, (p. 281,) "There can scarce be a greater defect," says he, "in a gentleman, than not to express himself well either in writing or speaking. But yet I think 1 may ask the reader, whether he doth not know a great many, who live upon their estates, and so, with the name, should have the qualities of gentlemen, who cannot so much as tell a story as they should, much less speak clearly and persuasively in any business. This I think not to be so much their fault as the fault of their education." Thus far Locke.
Monsieur Rollin reckons the neglect of teaching their own tongue a great fault in the French universities. He spends great part of his first volume of Belles Lettres on that subject; and lays down some excellent rules or methods of teaching French to Frenchmen grammatically, and making them masters therein, which are very applicable to our language, but too long to be inserted here. He practised them on the youth under his care with great success.
five years. To put the machine in motion, twentyfour of the principal subscribers agreed to take upon themselves the trust; and a set of constitutions for their government, and for the regulation of the schools,
Mr. Hutchinson, (Died. p. 297,) says, "To perfect them in the knowledge of their mother tongue, they should learn it in the grammatical way, that they not only speak it purely, but be able both to correct their own idiom, and afterwards enrich the language on the same foundation."
Dr. Turnbull, in his Observations on a Liberal Education, says, (p. 262,) "The Greeks, perhaps, made more early advances in the most useful sciences than any youth have done since, chiefly on this account, that they studied no other language but their own. This, no doubt, saved them very much time; but they applied themselves carefully to the study of their own language, and were early able to speak and write it in the greatest perfection. The Roman youth, though they learned the Greek, did not neglect their own tongue, but studied it more carefully than we now do Greek and Latin, without giving ourselves any trouble about our own tongue."
Monsieur Simon, in an elegant Discourse of his among the Memoirs of the Academy of Belles Lettres at Paris, speaking of the stress the Romans laid on purity of language and graceful pronunciation, adds, "May I here make a reflection on the education we commonly give our children? It is very remote from the precepts I have mentioned. Hath the child arrived to six or seven years of age, he mixes with a herd of ill-bred boys at school, where, under the pretext of teaching him Latin, no regard is had to his mother tongue. And what happens? What we see every day. A young gentleman of eighteen, who has had this education, cannot read. For to articulate the words, and join them together, I do not call reading, unless one can pronounce well, observe all the proper stops, vary the voice, express the sentiment, and read with a delicate intelligence. Nor can he speak a jot better. A proof of this is, that he cannot write ten lines without committing gross faults; and, because he did not learn his own language well in his early years, he will never know it well. I except a few, who, being afterwards engaged by their profession, or their natural taste, cultivate their minds by study. And yet even they, if they attempt to write, will find by the labor composition costs them, what a loss it is, not to have learned their language in the proper season. Education among the Romans was upon a quite different footing. Masters of rhetoric taught them early the principles, the difficulties, the beauties, the subtilties, the depths, the riches of their own language. When they went from these schools, they were perfect masters of it, they were never at a loss for proper expressions; and I am much deceived if it was not owing to this, that they produced such excellent works with so marvellous facility." Pliny, in his letter to a lady on choosing a tutor for her son, speaks
were drawn up by Mr. Francis and myself, which were signed by us all, and printed, that the public might know what was to be expected. I wrote also a paper, entitled, Idea of an English School, which
of it as the most material thing in his education, that he should have a good Latin master of rhetoric, and recommends Julius Genitor for his eloquent, open, and plain faculty of speaking. He does not advise her to a Greek master of rhetoric, though the Greeks were famous for that science; but to a Latin master, because Latin Was the boy's mother tongue. In the above quotation from Monsieur Simon, we see what was the office and duty of the master of rhetoric.
To form their style, they should be put on writing letters to each other, making abstracts of what they read; or writing the same things in their own words; telling or writing stories lately read, in their own expressions. All to be revised and corrected by the tutor, who should give his reasons, explain the force and import of words, &c.
This Mr. Locke recommends, (Educ. p. 284,) and says; "The writing of letters has so much to do in all the occurrences of human life, that no gentleman can avoid showing himself in this kind of writing. Occasions will daily force him to make this use of his pen, which, besides the consequence that, in his affairs, the well or ill managing it often draws after it, always lays him open to a severer examination of his breeding, sense, and abilities, than oral discourses, whose transient faults, dying for the most part with the sound that gives them life, and so not subject t) a strict review, more easily escape observation and censure."
He adds; "Had the methods of education been directed to their right end, one would have thought this so necessary a part could not have been neglected, whilst themes and verses in Latin, of no use at all, were so constantly everywhere pressed, to the racking of children's invention beyond their strength, and hindering their cheerful progress by unnatural difficulties. But custom has so ordained it, and who dares disobey? And would it not be very unreasonable to require of a learned country-schoolmaster (who has all the tropes and figures in Farnaby's Rhetoric at his fingers' ends) to teach his scholar to express himself handsomely in English, when it appears to be so little his business or thought, that the boy's mother (despised, 't is like, as illiterate for not having read a system of logic or rhetoric) outdoes him in it?
"To speak and write correctly gives a grace, and gains a favorable attention to what one has to say. And since 't is English that an Englishman will have constant use of, that is the language he should chiefly cultivate, and wherein most care should be taken to polish and perfect his style. To speak or write better Latin than English may make a man be talked of; but he will find it more to his purpose to express himself well in his own tongue, that he uses every moment, than to have the vain commendations of others for a very insignificant quality. This I find