Page images



JANUARY, 18 45.

Art. I.-EDUCATION IN EUROPE.-1. Seventh Annual Report

of Horace Mann, Esq., Secretary of the Board of Education in Massachusetts, on the State of Education in Europe.

Boston. 1844. 2. Reports of the Free School System to the General Assembly

of South-Carolina, at the regular session of 1839. Columbia. 1840.

Our fellow-citizens of the New-England States are said to have their predilections. They are fond of projects in every department of inquiry-of schemes of improvement which rise and fall with the revolutions to which public opinion is necessarily subject among a highly intelligent and inquisitive people. The spirit of discovery is abroad there. Progress is the rule and rest the exception. Nothing is stationary among them. Reforms are always needed, theories always popular. They have never reached the ultimatum in any thing. They dislike old things. Even truth is sometimes too gray-headed for them, and a speculation is preferred if it come in a respectable guise, and have the charm of novelty to recommend it. The past is quite obsolete in their

judgment; the present eminently defective, while over the future hang the sunshine and rays of glory. Posterity are to enjoy every thing, and the present generation are mere pioneers to level mountains, cut down trees, dig out roots, and macadamize streets and roads.

This restless spirit of change, which characterizes our countrymen, is attended with its disadvantages. The pow. 1

VOL. VII.— NO. 13.

ers of invention are continually tasked to the utmost, but the misfortune is, that when a discovery is made, it is petted and praised and played with like a child's rattle for a while, but as soon as all its beauties are scanned, it is laid upon the shelf like an old and neglected thing. It is even pronounced a failure, a mistake, a fatal error, and something new and something better is demanded to meet the wants of the age, and suit the genius of the people. No stranger, who ever visited this country, was received with more enthusiasm than the famous Joseph Lancaster, of monitorial-instruction memory. His progress through the New England States was like the progresses of the kings and queens of England through their dominions—one continual triumph. His system of teaching a multitude of children, through the instrumentality of boys and girls, was a novelty. The idea of it was stolen, but no matter, it was a good one, or it was thought to be so. There was economy in the plan, and economy has always been a consideration with our countrymen. It was seriously proposed that the system should be introduced into the col. leges, and Latin and logic be taught by monitors instead of professors; but before this great revolution in learning took place, it was discovered that boys do not make good teachers, that they want the necessary information and experience, and that teachers must be something of philosophers, which boys are not. The plan accordingly was abandoned as impracticable and impolitic, and it is now pronounced by Mr. Mann to have been the merest folly and romance. Then followed a great rage for gymnasiums. The bodies of the rising generation, their joints, thews, muscles, nerves and sinews were to be educated. The Greek and Roman games were to be restored. Boys were to run and leap and climb and fence and wrestle and exercise their limbs and get health. Girls were to let nature have its way in the development of their persons. They were to adopt the let-alone policy of the anti-protectionists. Corsets were pronounced iniquitous, and bustles abominable, and spinning, weaving, shoe-binding, house-work, factory-work and all-work, serving, as they do, to unfold and invigorate the physical faculties, were recommended by reformers of the transcendental class, as highly feminine accomplishments—" the top and glory of life.” But the passion for physical education passed away even before children of either sex had arrived at legal age, and they then began to be treated as if they had no

bodies at all, and were all soul. It was then discovered, that, in all previous systems of education, the heart had been sadly overlooked, and that an era in education was about to dawn, in which the heart should be sent to school, and the dormant affections of love, gratitude and pity be awakened from their slumbers, and be subjected to a proper training. Even a creed was contemplated by some, and the whole country, in a short time, was to be peopled by philanthropists and saints. Then followed the discovery that the memory had all along been cultivated at the expense of the understanding-that it had been loaded with much greater burthens than it could bear—burthens which endangered the due balance of the faculties,—that man was an intellectual being, and reason his highest prerogative, which therefore ought to occupy the foreground of the picture, and be treated with marked respect. Measures were taken accordingly to quicken the intellect, and to cause children to think profoundly and rapidly, and memory and the heart sank all at once to a low grade in the scale of excellence. Then succeeded the triumph of things over words, and of the qualities of things over the names by which they were known, and language stood a fair chance of being banished from the schools as a part of learning. Children were to study nature, to examine facts and draw their own inferences. Lord Bacon, of all philosophers, was the only true one, and synthesis the only natural and equitable mode of acquiring knowledge. If progress were proposed, there should be an induction from particulars to generals, and not from generals to particulars according to the old method. The consternation produced among theorists by the doctrines of phrenology, undermining all old maxims, and requiring a totally new re-organization of the system of education, can scarcely be conceived. Here was an entirely new constitution of man to be studied,-a new system of metaphysics superseding those of Aristotle, Des Cartes, Locke, Kant, Brown, Reid, Stewart, and the founders of other schools of intellectual philosophy. The cerebrum and cerebellum,—the seats of thought and feeling --- were suddenly elevated to the highest pitch of eminence, and the moral and intellectual faculties stood prominently forth on different parts of the cranium as upon a map, and could be measured and bounded with as much accuracy as the different countries, mountains, plains, rivers, lakes and oceans of the globe in which we live.

[ocr errors]

Here was matter for the most profound consideration. Phrenology had disclosed what nature had done for every individual, what his capacities were, what his propensities, and what education ought to do for him, in order to develope the former and encourage or restrain the latter. The last discovery that has been made in our day, is, that the mind may see, feel, hear, touch, taste and smell independently of the organs

of sense ; but what influence this theory is to have upon the training of the faculties, remains to be determined by those who preside over the mysteries of the intellect and undertake to manage

it. Notwithstanding the perpetual discussion of theories which should have shed light upon the subject, Mr. Mann, in his seventh annual Report, professes his inability to expound the great problem of education. He is not satisfied with what has yet been done, even in Massachusetts, to perfect the schools. He is oppressed by the greatness of his theme, and by the responsibility that rests upon him, resulting from the official station that he occupies. This is right enough and very natural, and we acquit him of all affectation or desire to magnify his office beyond measure. We may well give him credit for sincerity when he asserts, that the proper training of the mind is an art of the greatest difficulty and delicacy, and embraces duties calculated to task to the utmost the highest powers of the most gifted intellect. It is true, that education has respect to elements and starting points; but this view of the subject is a very narrow, although common one enough with those who look only at the superficial aspects of it, without penetrating beyond the outer rind and surface, and examining those secret processes of nature, minute when singly considered, but powerful in

te, by means of which the world, from age to age, and from generation to generation, is carried forward. There are other, higher and more extended views in which every man of sense regards this great subject. He connects education not only with beginnings but with endings, and beholds the endings stretching out towards infinity, and the interval as having relation to every stage of human progress between the lowest acquisitions of the humblest intellect and the loftiest discoveries of creative genius. He considers it in its bearing upon the mysterious structure of humanity,— upon the whole of humanity and not upon a part of it ;upon the understanding and upon all its noble and command

the aggre

ing powers; upon the heart and all its tender and controlling affections; and even upon the physical powers of the body itself, through which mind acts upon mind and upon the external world. Whatever strengthens, enlarges, developes, informs and elevates the soul, educates it, and prepares it to perform nobly its high vocation. Art, science, politics, the conduct of life, the laws under which God has placed the universe, and the laws under which man has placed his country,-all these are the objects of education, but above all, truth in relation to all things--truth which is only another name for power itself, and which imparts power, lustre and glory to the intellect. Progress, eternal progress, is the law of the human faculties, and the ministry of the teacher never ends, because the learner has never reached a boundary beyond which he cannot pass to some limit still beyond, and the great problem of education will never be solved, until the nature of the mind and its capabilities are fully understood, together with all the means and instrumentalities by which its progress, in an infinite variety of directions, may be most effectively promoted. We are not surprised that Mr. Mann should be somewhat perplexed by the difficulties of his subject, and oppressed by the weight of his responsibility to his State and to his age. We see nothing in this diffidence but the modesty of true science,-a modesty which is quite consistent with an earnest devotion to a good and great cause, and which is always indicative of real merit. We are, however, we must confess, not a little astounded at the manner in which Mr. Brownson, in the last number of his Quarterly Review, speaks of this gentleman. We entertain a high respect for Mr. Brownson as a very vigorous writer, but we think he has erred in his estimate of Mr. Mann, when he asserts, that " he knows nothing of the pbilosophy of human nature, and nothing of Christian morals and theology," and that "his theory is derived from German quacks, and can only rear up a generation of infidels." We think that so wholesale a denunciation of a gentleman of sterling talents and real worth, and who stands deservedly high in the confidence of his fellow-citizens, comes with ill grace from one whose philosophical opinions, at the present moment, are notoriously borrowed from German doctors, and whose claims to be recognized by the Protestant community, as an expounder of true theology, rest on the position he has recenily taken, that “the stand

« PreviousContinue »