Affiliate Link

Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania

Mons. Rollin complains, that the College Education in France is defective in Teaching History, which he thinks may be made of great Advantage to Youth. This he demonstrates largely in his Belles Lettres, to the Satisfaction of all that read the Book. He lays down the following Rules for Studying History, viz. 1. To reduce the Study to Order and Method. 2. To observe what relates to Usages and Customs. 3. To enquire particularly, and above all Things, after the Truth. 4. To endeavour to find out the Causes of the Rise and Fall of States, of the Gaining or Losing of Battles, and other Events of Importance. 5. To study the Character of the Nations and great Men mentioned in History. 6. To be attentive to such Instructions as concern MORAL EXCELLENCY and the CONDUCT OF LIFE. 7. Carefully to note every Thing that relates to RELIGION: Vol. 3. p. 146.

(* 15) Plenty of these are to be met with in Montfaucon; and other Books of Antiquities.

(* 16) For the Importance and Necessity of moral Instructions to Youth, see the latter Notes.

(* 17) Dr. Turnbull, Liberal Education, p. 371, says, “That the useful Lessons which ought to be inculcated upon Youth, are much better taught and enforced from Characters, Actions, and Events, developing the inward Springs of human Conduct, and the different Consequences of Actions, whether with Respect to private or publick Good, than by abstract Philosophical Lectures. History points out in Examples, as in a Glass, all the Passions of the human Heart, and all their various Workings in different Circumstances, all the Virtues and all the Vices human Nature is capable of; all the Snares, all the Temptations, all the Vicissitudes and Incidents of human Life; and gives Occasion for Explaining all the Rules of Prudence, Decency, Justice and Integrity, in private Oeconomy, and in short all the Laws of natural Reason.”

(* 18) “Rules are best understood, when Examples that confirm them, and point out their Fitness or Necessity, naturally lead one, as it were by the Hand, to take Notice of them. One who is persuaded and moved by a Speech, and heartily admires its Force and Beauty, will with Pleasure enter into a critical Examination of its Excellencies; and willingly lay up in his Mind the Rules of Rhetoric such an Example of Eloquence plainly suggests. But to teach Rules abstractly, or without Examples, and before the agreeable Effects the Observance of them tends to produce (which are in Reality their Reason or Foundation) have been felt, is exceedingly preposterous.” Turnbull, p. 410.

“I have seldom or never observed any one to get the Skill of Speaking handsomely, by Studying the Rules which pretend to teach Rhetoric.” Locke, p. 279.

(* 19) See Turnbull on this Head, from p. 386 to 390. very much to the Purpose, but too long to be transcribed here.

(* 20) Thus, as Milton says, Educ. p. 381. should they be instructed in the Beginning, End and Reasons of political Societies; that they may not, in a dangerous Fit of the Commonwealth, be such poor, shaken, uncertain Reeds, of such a tottering Conscience, as many of our great Councellors have lately shewn themselves, but stedfast Pillars of the State.

(* 21) After this, they are to dive into the Grounds of Law and legal Justice; deliver’d first and with best Warrant by Moses; and as far as human Prudence can be trusted, in those celebrated Remains of the antient Grecian and Roman Lawgivers, &c. p. 382.

“When he has pretty well digested Tully‘s Offices, says Mr. Locke, p. 277. and added to it Puffendorff de Officio Hominis & Civis, it may be seasonable to set him upon Grotius, de Jure Belli & Pacis, or which perhaps is the better of the two, Puffendorff de Jure naturali & Gentium; wherein he will be instructed in the natural Rights of Men, and the Original and Foundations of Society, and the Duties resulting from thence. This general Part of Civil Law and History are Studies which a Gentleman should not barely touch at, but constantly dwell upon, and never have done with. A virtuous and well-behaved young Man, that is well versed in the general Part of the Civil Law (which concerns not the Chicane of private Cases, but the Affairs and Intercourse of civilized Nations in general, grounded upon Principles of Reason) understands Latin well, and can write a good Hand, one may turn loose into the World, with great Assurance that he will find Employment and Esteem every where.”

(* 22) Mr. Walker, in his excellent Treatise of the Education of young Gentlemen, speaking of Publick and open Argumentation pro and con, says p. 124, 125. “This is it which brings a Question to a Point, and discovers the very Center and Knot of the Difficulty. This warms and activates the Spirit in the Search of Truth, excites Notions, and by replying and frequent Beating upon it, cleanseth it from the Ashes, and makes it shine and flame out the clearer. Besides, it puts them upon a continual Stretch of their Wits to defend their Cause, it makes them quick in Replies, intentive upon their Subject; where the Opponent useth all Means to drive his Adversary from his Hold; and the Answerer defends himself sometimes with the Force of Truth, sometimes with the Subtilty of his Wit; and sometimes also he escapes in a Mist of Words, and the Doubles of a Distinction, whilst he seeks all Holes and Recesses to shelter his persecuted Opinion and Reputation. This properly belongeth to the Disputations which are Exercises of young Students, who are by these Velitations and in this Palaestra brought up to a more serious Search of Truth. And in them I think it not a Fault to dispute for Victory, and to endeavour to save their Reputation; nor that their Questions and Subjects are concerning Things of small Moment and little Reality; yea, I have known some Governors that have absolutely forbidden such Questions, where the Truth was of Concernment, on purpose that the Youth might have the Liberty of exerting their Parts to the uttermost, and that there might be no Stint to their Emulation.”

(* 23) Rollin, Vol. 4. p. 211. speaking of Natural Philosophy, says, “That much of it falls within the Capacity of all Sorts of Persons, even of Children. It consists in attending to the Objects with which nature presents us, in considering them with Care, and admiring their different Beauties, &c. Searching out their secret Causes indeed more properly belongs to the Learned.

“I say that even Children are capable of Studying Nature, for they have Eyes, and don’t want Curiosity; they ask Questions, and love to be informed; and here we need only awaken and keep up in them the Desire of Learning and Knowing, which is natural to all Mankind. Besides this Study, if it is to be called a Study, instead of being painful and tedious, is pleasant and agreeable; it may be used as a Recreation, and should usually be made a Diversion. It is inconceivable, how many Things Children are capable of, if all the Opportunities of Instructing them were laid hold of, with which they themselves supply us.

“A Garden, a Country, a Plantation, are all so many Books which lie open to them; but they must have been taught and accustomed to read in them. Nothing is more common amongst us than the Use of Bread and Linnen. How seldom do Children know how either of them are prepared, through how many Operations and Hands the Corn and Flax must pass, before they are turned into Bread and Linnen? The same may be said of Cloth, which bears no Resemblance to the Wool whereof it is formed, any more than Paper to the Rags which are picked up in the Streets: And why should not Children be instructed in these wonderful Works of Nature and Art which they every Day make Use of without reflecting upon them?

“He adds, that a careful Master may in this Way enrich the Mind of his Disciple with a great Number of useful and agreeable Ideas, and by a properMixture of short Reflections, will at the same Time take Care to form his Heart, and lead him by Nature to Religion.”

Milton also recommends the Study of Natural Philosophy to Youth, Educ. p. 380. “In this, says he, they may proceed leisurely from the History of Meteors, Minerals, Plants and living Creatures, as far as Anatomy; Then also in Course might be read to them out of some not tedious Writer, the Institution of Physick; that they may know the Tempers, the Humours, the Seasons, and how to manage a Crudity; which he who can wisely and timely do, is not only a great Physician to himself, and to his Friends, but also may at some Time or other save an Army by this frugal and expenseless Means only; and not let the healthy and stout Bodies of young Men rot away under him for want of this Discipline, which is a great Pity, and no less a Shame to the Commander.”

Proper Books may be, Ray‘s Wisdom of God in the Creation, Derham’s Physico-Theology, Spectacle de la Nature, &c.;

(* 24) Milton would have the Latin Authors on Agriculture taught at School, as Cato, Varro and Columella; “for the Matter, says he, is most easy, and if the Language be difficult, yet it may be master’d. And here will be an Occasion of inciting and enabling them hereafter to improve the Tillage of their Country, to recover the bad Soil, and to remedy the Waste that is made of Good; for this was one of Hercules’ Praises.” Educ. p. 379.

Hutcheson (Dialogues on Educ. 303, 2d Vol.) says, “Nor should I think it below the Dignity or Regard of an University, to descend even to the general Precepts of Agriculture and Gardening. Virgil, Varro, and others eminent in Learning, tho’t it not below their Pen — and why should we think meanly of that Art, which was the Mother of Heroes, and of the Masters of the World.”

Locke also recommends the Study of Husbandry and Gardening, as well as gaining an Insight in several of the manual Arts; Educ. p. 309, 314, 315. It would be a Pleasure and Diversion to Boys to be led now and then to the Shops of Artificers, and suffer’d to spend some Time there in observing their Manner of Working. For the Usefulness of Mechanic Skill, even to Gentlemen, see the Pages above cited, to which much might be added.

(* 25) How many Mills are built and Machines constructed, at great and fruitless Expence, which a little Knowledge in the Principles of Mechanics would have prevented?

(* 26) We are often told in the Journals of Travellers, that such and such Things are done in foreign Countries, by which Labour is sav’d, and Manufactures expedited, &c. but their Description of the Machines or Instruments used, are quite unintelligible for want of good Drafts. Copying Prints of Machines is of Use to fix the Attention on the several Parts, their Proportions, Reasons, Effects, &c. A Man that has been us’d to this Practice, is not only better able to make a Draft when the Machine is before him, but takes so much better Notice of its Appearance, that he can carry it off by Memory when he has not the Opportunity of Drawing it on the Spot. Thus may a Traveller bring home Things of great Use to his Country.

(* 27) “Upon this excellent Disposition (says Turnbull, p. 326.) it will be easy to build that amiable Quality commonly called GOOD BREEDING, and upon no other Foundation can it be raised. For whence else can it spring, but from a general Good-will and Regard for all People, deeply rooted in the Heart, which makes any one that has it, careful not to shew in his Carriage, any Contempt, Disrespect, or Neglect of them, but to express a Value and Respect for them according to their Rank and Condition, suitable to the Fashion and Way of their Country? ‘Tis a Disposition to make all we converse with easy and well pleased.”

(* 28) It is this lovely Quality which gives true Beauty to all other Accomplishments, or renders them useful to their Possessor, in procuring him the Esteem and Good-will of all that he comes near. Without it, his other Qualities, however good in themselves, make him but pass for proud, conceited, vain or foolish. Courage, says an excellent Writer, in an ill-bred Man has the Air, and escapes not the Opinion of Brutality; Learning becomes Pedantry; Wit, Buffoonery; Plainness, Rusticity; and there cannot be a good Quality in him which Ill-breeding will not warp and disfigure to his Disadvantage.” Turnbull, p. 327.

(* 29) To have in View the Glory and Service of God, as some express themselves, is only the same Thing in other Words. For Doing Good to Men is the only Service of God in our Power; and to imitate his Beneficence is to glorify him. Hence Milton says, “The End of Learning is to repair the Ruins of our first Parents, by regaining to know God aright, and out of that Knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our Souls of true Virtue.” Educ. p. 373. Mr. Hutcheson says, Dial. v. 2. p. 97. “The principal End of Education is, to form us wise and good Creatures, useful to others, and happy ourselves. The whole Art of Education lies within a narrow Compass, and is reducible to a very simple Practice; namely, To assist in unfolding those Natural and Moral Powers with which Man is endowed, by presenting proper Objects and Occasions; to watch their Growth that they be not diverted from their End, or disturbed in their Operation by any foreign Violence; and gently to conduct and apply them to all the Purposes of private and of public Life.” And Mr. Locke (p. 84. Educ.) says, “‘Tis VIRTUE, then, direct VIRTUE, which is to be aim’d at in Education. All other Considerations and Accomplishments are nothing in Comparison to this. This is the solid and substantial Good, which Tutors should not only read Lectures and talk of, but the Labour and Art of Education should furnish the Mind with, and fasten there, and never cease till the young Man had a true Relish of it, and plac’d his Strength, his Glory, and his Pleasure, in it.” And Mons. Rollin, Belles Lettres, Vol. 4. p. 249. to the same Purpose, “If we consult our Reason ever so little, it is easy to discern that the END which Masters should have in View, is not barely to teach their Scholars Greek and Latin, to learn them to make Exercises and Verses, to charge their Memory with Facts and historical Dates, to draw up Syllogisms in Form, or to trace Lines and Figures upon Paper. These Branches of Learning I own are useful and valuable, but as Means, and not as the End; when they conduct us to other Things, and not when we stop at them; when they serve us as Preparatives and Instruments for better Knowledge, without which the rest would be useless. Youth would have Cause to complain, if they were condemned to spend eight or ten of the best Years of their Life in learning, at a great Expence, and with incredible Pains, one or two Languages, and some other Matters of a like Nature, which perhaps they would seldom have Occasion to use. The End of Masters, in the long Course of their Studies, is to habituate their Scholars to serious Application of Mind, to make them love and value the Sciences, and to cultivate in them such a Taste, as shall make them thirst after them when they are gone from School; to point out the Method of attaining them; and make them thoroughly sensible of their Use and Value; and by that Means dispose them for the different Employments to which it shall please God to call them. Besides this, the End of Masters should be, to improve their Hearts and Understandings, to protect their Innocence, to inspire them with Principles of Honour and Probity, to train them up to good Habits; to correct and subdue in them by gentle Means, the ill Inclinations they shall be observed to have, such as Pride, Insolence, an high Opinion of themselves, and a saucy Vanity continually employed in lessening others; a blind Self-love solely attentive to its own Advantage; a Spirit of Raillery which is pleased with offending and insulting others; an Indolence and Sloth, which renders all the good Qualities of the Mind useless.”

Dr. Turnbull has the same Sentiments, with which we shall conclude this Note. If, says he, there be any such Thing as DUTY, or any such Thing as HAPPINESS; if there be any Difference between right and wrong Conduct; any Distinction between Virtue and Vice, or Wisdom and Folly; in fine, if there be any such Thing as Perfection or Imperfection belonging to the rational Powers which constitute moral Agents; or if Enjoyments and Pursuits admit of Comparison; Good Education must of Necessity be acknowledged to mean, proper Care to instruct early in the Science of Happiness and Duty, or in the Art of Judging and Acting aright in Life. Whatever else one may have learned, if he comes into the World from his Schooling and Masters, quite unacquainted with the Nature, Rank and Condition, of Mankind, and the Duties of human Life (in its more ordinary Circumstances at least) he hath lost his Time; he is not educated; he is not prepared for the World; he is not qualified for Society; he is not fitted for discharging the proper Business of Man. The Way therefore to judge whether Education be on a right Footing or not, is to compare it with the END; or to consider what it does in order to accomplish Youth for choosing and behaving well in the various Conditions, Relations and Incidents, of Life. If Education be calculated and adapted to furnish young Minds betimes with proper Knowledge for their Guidance and Direction in the chief Affairs of the World, and in the principal Vicissitudes to which human Concerns are subject, then is it indeed proper or right Education. But if such Instruction be not the principal Scope to which all other Lessons are rendered subservient in what is called the Institution of Youth, either the Art of Living and Acting well is not Man’s most important Business, or what ought to be the CHIEF END of Education is neglected, and sacrificed to something of far inferior Moment. Observations on Liberal Education, p. 175, 176.

Philadelphia, 1749