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endowed with the gift of working miracles, and, when the experiment falls into their hands, the result of their efforts is a pitiful miscarriage. Knowledge is scarcely in any degree imparted. But, as they are inured to a dogged assiduity, and persist in their unavailing attempts, though the shell of science, so to speak, is scarcely in the smallest measure penetrated, yet that inestimable gift of the author of our being, the sharpness of human faculties, is so blunted and destroyed, that it can scarcely ever be usefully employed even for those purposes which it was originally best qualified to effect.
A numerous school is that mint from which the worst and most flagrant libels on our nature are incessantly issued. Hence it is that we are taught, by a judgment everlastingly repeated, that the majority of our kind are predestinated blockheads.
Not that it is by any means to be recommended, that a little writing and arithmetic, and even the first rudiments of classical knowledge, so far as they can be practicably imparted, should be withheld from any. The mischief is, that we persist, month after month, and year after year, in sowing our seed, when it has already been fully ascertained, that no suitable and wholsome crop will ever be produced
But what is perhaps worse is, that we are accustomed to pronounce, that that soil, which will not produce the crop of which we have attempted to make it fertile, is fit for nothing. The majority of
boys, at the very period when the buds of intellect begin to unfold themselves, are so accustomed to be told that they are dull and fit for nothing, that the most pernicious effects are necessarily produced. They become half convinced by the ill-boding song of the raven, perpetually croaking in their ears ; and, for the other half, though by no means assured that the sentence of impotence awarded against them is just, yet, folding up their powers in inactivity, they are contented partly to waste their energies in pure idleness and sport, and partly to wait, with minds scarcely half awake, for the moment when their true destination shall be
opened before them.
Not that it is by any means to be desired, that the child in his earlier years should meet with no ruggednesses in his way, and that he should perpetually tread “ the primrose path of dalliance.” Clouds and tempests occasionally clear the atmosphere of intellect, not less than that of the visible world. The road to the hill of science, and to the promontory of heroic virtue, is harsh and steep, and from time to time puts to the proof the energies of him who would ascend their topmost round.
There are many things which every human creature should learn, so far as, agreeably to the constitution of civilised society, they can be brought within his reach. He should be induced to learn them, willingly if possible, but, if that cannot be thoroughly effected, yet with half a will. Such are reading, writing, arithmetic, and the first principles of grammar; to which shall be added, as far as may be, the rudiments of all the sciences that are in ordinary use. The latter however should not be brought forward too soon; and, if wisely delayed, the tyro
himself will to a certain degree enter into the views of his instructor, and be disposed to essay Quid valeant humeri, quid ferre recusent. But, above all, the beginnings of those studies should be encouraged, which unfold the imagination, familiarise us with the feelings, the joys and sufferings of our fellow-beings, and teach us to put ourselves in their place and eagerly fly to their assistance.
HOW FAR OUR GENUINE PROPENSITIES AND VOCATION
SHOULD BE FAVOURED-SELF-REVERENCE RECOMMENDED.-CONCLUSION.
I KNEW a man of eminent intellectual faculties b one of whose favourite topics of moral prudence was, that it is the greatest mistake in the world to suppose, that, when we have discovered the special aspiration of the youthful mind, we are bound to do every thing in our power to assist its progress. He maintained on the contrary, that it is our true wisdom to place obstacles in its way, and to thwart it: as we may be well assured that, unless it is a mere caprice, it will shew its strength in conquering
difficulties, and that all the obstacles that we can conjure up will but inspire it with the greater earnestness to attain final success.
The maxim here stated, taken to an unlimited extent, is doubtless a very dangerous one. There are obstacles that scarcely any strength of man would be sufficient to conquer.
“ Chill penury” will sometimes “
repress the noblest rage,” that almost ever animated a human spirit : and our wisest course will probably be, secretly to favour, even when we seem most to oppose, the genuine bent of the youthful aspirer.
But the thing of greatest importance is, that we should not teach him to estimate his powers at too low a rate. One of the wisest of all the precepts comprised in what are called the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, is that, in which he enjoins his pupil to “reverence himself.” Ambition is the noblest root that can be planted in the garden of the human soul: not the ambition to be applauded and admired, to be famous and looked up to, to be the darling theme of “stupid starers and of loud huz zas;” but the ambition to fill a respectable place in the theatre of society, to be useful and to be esteemed, to feel that we have not lived in vain, and that we are entitled to the most honourable of all dismissions, an enlightened self-approbation. And nothing can more powerfully tend to place this beyond our acquisition, even our contemplation, than the perpetual and hourly rebuffs which ingenuous youth is so often doomed to sustain from the supercilious pedant, and the rigid decision of his unfeeling elders.
Self-respect to be nourished in the mind of the pupil, is one of the most valuable results of a wellconducted education. To accomplish this, it is most necessary that it should never be inculcated into him, that he is dull. Upon the principles of this Essay, any unfavourable appearances that may present themselves, do not arise from the dulness of the pupil, but from the error of those upon
whose superintendence he is cast, who require of him the things for which he is not adapted, and neglect those in which he is qualified to excel.
It is further necessary, if self-respect is one of the most desirable results of a well-conducted education, that, as we should not humble the pupil in his own eyes by disgraceful and humiliating language, so we should abstain, as much as possible, from personal ill-treatment, and the employing towards him the measures of an owner towards his purchased or indentured slave. Indignity is of all things the most hostile to the best purposes of a liberal education. It may be necessary occasionally to employ, towards a human creature in his years of nonage, the stimulants of exhortation and remonstrance even in the pursuits to which he is best adapted, for the purpose of overcoming the instability and fits of idleness to which all men, and most of all in their early years, are subject : though