Page images

We should be pleased with an occasion of noticing a work which should really introduce us to "Greece in 1824." The prospects of this interesting country are upon the whole gratifying, and it is scarcely possible to believe that it can ever again be enslaved by the Turks. In the midst of the privations and distresses to which the Greeks have been subjected, their confidence of success has never deserted them.

[ocr errors]

Every soldier's mind is bent on success; no Greek ever admits the possibility of being again subjected to the Turks. If you talk of millions that are about to pour down into their country, still they never appear dismayed. They tell you calmly, that as more come, more will be famished or mowed down by the Hellenists. This gallant feeling is universal. My opinion is, that the struggle, however protracted, must succeed, and must lead to an improvement in the condition, not only of Greece, but of Asia."

An Outline of the System of Education at New Lanark. By Robert Dale Owen.-Glasgow: and Longman and Co. London. 1824. pp. 103.

AN intelligent foreigner, in conversation with a friend of ours, recently expressed a wish, that, after having left the world, he might be permitted to revisit it after the lapse of a century or two. Being asked why? he remarked that, if succeeding generations outstripped the present, in the same ratio in which the present appeared to excel the past, he was at a loss to conceive what a world of wisdom and goodness it would hereafter become; and what a privilege it must be to be allowed to witness the change. We know not whether this gentleman had visited New Lanark, and anticipated the results pretty confidently predicted in the work before us, if the system, of which it is an outline, should be generally adopted; but he was doubtless struck with the new plans and systems presented to us in every direction, of course all of them improvements, at least, in the estimation of their projectors.

The present is, unquestionably, the age of novelty. It matters not to what you refer; to what branch of science, or which department of art; to what trade, or profession, or employment, or pursuit, or undertaking; you are met by discoveries, inventions, patents, theories, and schemes; that, could our forefathers rise and revisit the site of their former lives, if they could find it, they must deem it peopled by a race of demi-gods, and could scarcely know how to demean themselves among them.

Far be it from us to indulge a wish to repress the exertions'

of genius, to impede the progress of philosophy, and retard the discoveries of science; but we cannot bring ourselves to believe that all that is announced as improvement, especially in education, will be found to be such. In this age, we are, happily, not unacquainted with the importance of experiment in the acquisition of knowledge, (thanks to the immortal. Bacon ;) but it must not be forgotten, that this effectual mode, is, if not less, surely more slowly available, in education than in any other pursuit. In physics, we subject to the test of experience with readiness and alacrity; but, in moral and intellectual inquiry, the process is more difficult, slow, and uncertain. The enlivening influence of novelty on the youthful mind, has often been mistaken for the advantageous effects of some alteration, although time has often shown, that these results were but temporary and delusive, that the change. was no improvement; and the experienced teacher has sometimes observed, that the return to the former plan was as welcome to the pupil.,

We have been much struck of late, in comparing various periods of history, with the proneness of mankind to extremes. Scarcely have the evils of a system been felt and allowed, but, in the eagerness to get rid of it, mankind have rushed to an opposite excess. If our forefathers plodded on year after year the same dull round, their sons scarcely wait to understand one plan before it is abandoned for another. The former worked hard by laborious individual application, (but, most successfully,) for the knowledge they acquired; and we, when at school, were obliged to follow their example; but our sons are to be taught, as by magic, the whole circle of the sciences, and by such easy expeditious and diverting methods, (newly invented,) that in acquiring their education, unless we undeceive them, they think they are at play. Our forefathers, however, were good sound scholars, and excellent men, whom, we are certain, their descendants will not surpass; but whom, whether they will equal, is an important question, about which, however we may speculate, time will soon decide. When we were lads, we sat in silence to hear our parents and preceptors discourse, revering their authority, and admiring their learning and eloquence; treasuring up their sayings, and longing to follow their example; but, the youths of the present day are quite loquacious in the presence of their seniors, and are prepared to dispute with the authors and improvers of their being. They are ready to discuss matters in religion, politics, or whatever you choose to propose. Whether it be from dulness or jealousy, it does not become us to determine; but we cannot forbear declaring, that we are decidedly of opinion, that the scholars of the rising generation will be

vastly inferior to those of the last, notwithstanding all the plans, which, for the last thirty years, have appeared in the world; and for this simple reason, that, as their knowledge has cost them little pains, the impressions are but faint; and, as they aim at knowing every thing, it must necessarily be superficial. A celebrated divine, in an eloquent address, recently observed of this age, that what religion gained in surface it lost in depth; of the accuracy of this remark it is not our province to examine, but, we are inclined to think, if the term learning was substituted for religion, it would not be generally inapplicable to the state of it amongst us.

Of all the subjects which have occupied the attention of man, education is the most important and sublime, seeing it aims not only at qualifying him for the varied scenes of this life, but at fitting him for, and elevating him to a future life of morality and intellectuality, glorious beyond conception: -a life of converse and society with elevated spirits, and with his Maker himself.

In order to judge of the merits of any proposed system of education, it is of consequence to understand the nature and history of the being whose welfare it professes to promote.

Man is composed of mind and matter; and education aims to enrich and direct the one, and to adorn and preserve the other. He enters this state of incipient life in ignorance and helplessness, but is provided with exquisite senses, which are to his mind, what hands are to his body, and convey to the palace of the soul, with more rapidity than lightning, the various furniture which is to improve and enrich it. He is possessed of intellectual powers of a high order, that are placed under the control of reason, which, progressively improved and matured by information and experience, sits enthroned as a mighty monarch, to govern and direct the inferior ministering faculties.

But, notwithstanding this evident superiority of man over all the varied inhabitants of the earth, indicated even by his very structure,

"Os homini sublime dedit, cœlumque tueri

[ocr errors]

Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus,"

there is something materially and radically wrong in his system, which, but for the aid of history, we should in vain endeavour to trace and understand. There is, as it were, a gravitating tendency from rectitude in his mind, which, if indulged, if not resisted by some powerful counteracting influence, actually degrades him morally to the lowest rank of terrestrial creatures, and fits him ultimately for an alliance with infernal spirits.

It is, therefore, important that it should ever be recollected, that ignorance and depravity constitute the need of education, and that is the best system of education which most effectually supplies the defects of the former, and subjugates and progressively destroys the operations of the latter.

In the existing state of society there is, and in every future condition of it there certainly will be, much to be avoided, as well as much to be imitated; and such is the absurdity and criminality of many popular habits and fashions, and such the imperfect and erroneous nature, too generally, of domestic example, that it would be almost miraculous, if erroneous associations were not formed in the youthful mind; and against their influence, education has also to contend.

Aware of this, benevolence has recently originated infant schools, indeed they form a part of Mr. Owen's plan, where, by systematizing education from the cradle, greater perfection of character may be secured. The motive is laudable; but the precise effects of the plan remain to be demonstrated. We confess, except in extreme cases of parental poverty and depravity, we are less sanguine in our expectations of its benefits than many, much as we desire the improvement of the human character, and anxious as we are for the universal diffusion of knowledge. There is this grand objection to this artificial plan of proceeding. It is calculated, by too early and too much removing the child from the parent's care, both to diminish parental and filial affection, particularly the latter:

one of the most interesting ties of social life, which nature and religion conspire to strengthen. Popular maxims are generally founded in truth; and few will be seen more correct than that which represents the influence of locality on affection, thus expressed, "out of sight out of mind:"-an influence which is felt even in age, but, in an increasing degree, as we trace its operation towards infancy. Should this detrimental consequence result, we scruple not to say, that not any advantage which it could substitute, nor indeed all other advantages combined, would atone for its loss.

It will be found that the child which is reared by a benefactor and afterwards presented to beings as his father and mother, may revere them from the suggestions of his understanding, but can scarcely love them from the impulse of his heart; he may learn to call them father and mother, "but can never feel the charm those terms afford to the ear,” nor the glow they produce in the bosom of him, who has enjoyed the protecting care of the former, and the tender and ceaseless attentions of the latter. "Whatever may have been advanced," says a discerning writer, respecting the sтogy, or instructive

Cogan, in his Treatise on the Passions.

sympathy of blood, the instances seldom occur which favour that hypothesis, compared with the innumerable examples of preference given to the constant and affectionate attendant; to the no small mortification of the parent, the instrumental cause of its existence, and the provider of every comfort."

It is this consideration which has ever formed in our minds the greatest objection to boarding-schools, especially where the children are kept from home even during the vacations: nor have we words whereby to express our indignation at the barbarous conduct of those unnatural parents, who can bargain to transport the little creatures to Yorkshire for a term of years, to gratify the very worst disposition of their minds; -beggarly avarice.

Should it be replied, at infant schools the removal from home is but partial and temporary, and, therefore, the full force of the objection does not apply, it is granted; but, as the removal is so very early, and the greater portion of the time spent at home is consumed in sleep and preparations for school, there can be little opportunity for those interesting attentions and playful endearments which excite and preserve filial affection. We are not, however, inimical to early instruction.

Within our own times, much has been done towards universalizing education, particularly in our own country and its dependencies, by the systems of Dr. Bell and Mr. Lancaster; the great recommendation of whose plans seems to consist in the economical principles on which they are formed, and the consequent public mode of acquiring knowledge adopted, instead of that individual application which must, after all, be resorted to, if the knowledge extends at all below the surface: -a disadvantage unavoidable where such extensive classifications, simultaneous movements, and few teachers are necessarily employed:-a disadvantage less felt in the former than the latter of these plans; but, perhaps, more than counterbalanced by the religious toleration which the latter affords.

There is another feature in modern education, happily as popular as it is beneficial and remarkable-the establishment of Sunday schools; the advantages of which have been so decidedly evident, as to induce their general formation by the most opposite and contending religious sects. They are valuable, as counteracting injurious mental associations, and forming regular and religious habits, as well as for imparting the arts of reading and writing, and introducing the pupils to an acquaintance with the sacred Scriptures, and many valuable elementary books.


But there is in this country, and particularly in London,

« PreviousContinue »