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THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION.
I. TO THE INDIVIDUAL.
"What is a man
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed ?—a beast, no more.
Sure, He that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason
To rust in us unused."-SHAKSPEARE.
"Men generally need knowledge to overpower their passions and master their prejudices; and, therefore, to see your brother in ignorance is to see him unfurnished to all good works; and every master is to cause his family to be instructed, every governor is to instruct his charge, every man his brother, by all possible and just provisions. For if the people die for want of knowledge, they who are set over them shall also die for want of charity."-JEREMY TAYLOR.
IT may be proper to remind the reader, that by education, we understand a system of training and instruction, which aims at the due culture of all the powers of the soul, both intellectual and moral. We shall be the better prepared, to appreciate the necessity and importance of such culture, if we consider that, in its absence, the individual will be educated by circumstances. Even when he is most neglected, there will still be companions, parents, or masters, daily occurrences, and other causes, both physical and moral, which will act forcibly upon some of his powers to develop and excite them. But which of his powers will these be? When parents do not take the trouble to provide for the proper education of their children, it must be obvious that neither their example, nor the associations with which they will surround those children, whether in high or low life, will be likely to foster their better and purer sentiments. Add to the force
of natural propensity, the sensualizing influences which in such cases will inevitably be applied from without to the young and plastic mind, and what can be expected?
Beyond a doubt, whatever this little being has in common with animals will be cherished and strengthened; whatever he has in common with angels of light and purity will be repressed and stifled. The gratification of his lower appetites will be predominant among the objects of his desire; and as these appetites are essentially selfish, he will become less and less regardful of the claims of justice and of charity. He may improve in cunning, in the readiness with which he invents and the pertinacity with which he employs expedients to compass his base ends; but he will have less and less of true wisdom. When sorely pressed by danger or difficulty, he will show that he is not unacquainted with moral distinctions; but then the dexterity with which he tries to make the worse appear the better reason, and the facility with which he invents specious apologies for the worst acts, these will show, too, that in his mind the light has emphatically become darkness, and that even his highest faculties are little better than panders to his lowest appetites.
An ignorant, uncultivated mind, then, is the native soil of sensuality and cruelty, and the whole history of the world proves, that in a large proportion of instances, it does not fail to bring forth its appropriate fruit. In what countries, are the people most given to the lowest forms of animal gratification, and also most regardless of the lives and nappiness of others? Is it not in pagan lands, over which moral and intellectual darkness broods, and where men are vile without shame, and cruel without remorse? If from pagan we pass to Christian countries, we shall find that those in which education is least prevalent are precisely those in which there is the most immorality, and the greatest indifference to the sufferings of sentient and animated
beings. Spain, in which, until recently, there was but one newspaper, and in which not more than one in twenty of the people are instructed in schools, has a population about equal to that of England and Wales. What is the relative state of morals? In England and Wales the whole number of convictions for murder in one year (1826) was thirteen, and the number convicted of wounding, &c., with intent to kill, was fourteen, while in Spain the number convicted during the same year was, for murder, twelve hundred and thirty-three! and for maiming with intent to kill, seventeen hundred and seventy-three.*
* I add an extract from a late traveller (Inglis) on the state of manners and morals. "If vice degrade the manners of the upper and middle classes in Seville, crime of a darker turpitude disfigures the character and conduct of the lower orders. Scarcely a night passes without the commission of a murder. But these crimes are not perpetrated in cold blood from malevolent passions, still less from love of gain; they generally spring from the slightest possible causes. The Andalusian is not so abstemious as the Castilian, and the wine he drinks is stronger; he has also a great propensity for gambling, the fruitful engenderer of strife; and the climate has, doubtless, its influence upon his passions. 'Will you taste with me?' an Andalusian will say to some associate with whom he has had some slight difference, offering him his glass. 'No gracias,' the other will reply. The former, already touched with wine, will half drain his glass, and present it again, saying, 'Do you not wish to drink with me?' and if the other still refuses the proffered civility, it is the work of a moment to drain the glass to the dregs, to say, 'How! not taste with me?' and to thrust the knife an Andalusian always carries with him into the abdomen of the comrade who refuses to drink with him. It is thus, and in other ways equally simple, that quarrel and murder disfigure the nightly annals of every town in Andalusia, and of the other provinces of the south of Spain. There is an hospital in Seville dedicated to the sole purpose of receiving wounded persons. I had the curiosity to visit it, and ascertained that, during the past fourteen days, twenty-one persons had been received into the hospital wounded from stabs; they would not inform me how many of these had died."-Spain in 1830, vol. ü., p. 56.
We cannot be surprised that, in such a land, scenes of cruelty and blood should constitute the favourite amusement of the people. Their greatest delight is in bullfights; "and how," says an eyewitness," do the Spaniards conduct themselves during these scenes? The intense interest which they feel in this game is visible throughout, and often loudly expressed; an astounding shout always accompanies a critical moment: whether it be the bull or man who is in danger, their joy is excessive; but their greatest sympathy is given to the feats of the bull. If the picador receives the bull gallantly, and forces him to retreat, or if the matador courageously faces and wounds the bull, they applaud these acts of science and valour; but if the bull overthrow the horse and his rider, or if the matador miss his aim and the bull seems ready to gore him, their delight knows no bounds. And it is certainly a fine spectacle to see the thousands of spectators rise simultaneously, as they always do when the interest is intense; the greatest and most crowded theatre in Europe presents nothing half so imposing as this. But how barbarous, how brutal is the whole exhibition! Could an English audience witness the scenes that are repeated every week in Madrid? A universal burst of 'shame!' would follow the spectacle of a horse gored and bleeding, and actually treading upon his own entrails while he gallops round the arena: even the appearance of the goaded bull could not be borne; panting, covered with wounds and blood, lacerated by darts, and yet brave and resolute to the end.
"The spectacle continued two hours and a half, and during that time there were seven bulls killed and six horses. When the last bull was despatched, the people immediately rushed into the arena, and the carcass was dragged out amid the most deafening shouts."-Spain in 1830, vol. i., p. 191.
In another passage, the same writer, after describing a
fight, in which one bull had killed three horses and one man, and remained master of the arena, adds, "This was a time to observe the character of the people. When the unfortunate picador was killed, in place of a general exclamation of horror and loud expressions of pity, the universal cry was Que es bravo ese toro!' ('Ah! the admirable bull!'). The whole scene produced the most unbounded delight; and I did not perceive a single female avert her head, or betray the slightest symptom of wounded feeling."
How different is the spirit and character developed by a proper system of education. Discipline gives its subjects command over their passions, and instead of a love for vicious excitement, cultivates the taste for simple and innocent pleasures. Objects higher than any gratification merely animal awaken desire; objects in the pursuit of which the faculties find a healthful and agreeable employment, and the individual, though intent on his own advantage, still serves the community. His charities, too, are enlarged and strengthened. From a mere child of impulse, he is transformed into a reflective being, looking before and after with large discourse of reason. He forms plans for a distant future, and thus rises nearer and nearer to a spiritual existence; while, divested of no sentiments or principles which the Creator has bestowed upon him, all are still made to occupy their proper places, and to move together in subordination to the great ends of his being.
It is to be observed here, again, that we mean by education a large and generous culture, which comprehends the whole man, and which assigns, therefore, the first place to the immortal nature. We would never forget, that there may be much knowledge and much discipline of the intellectual powers, which leaves, in darkness and sin, the moral and spiritual man. Such education we repudiate. Instead of a narrow and partial training, which would make its subject a inonster rather than a man; we go for one which would