Imágenes de página

great deficiency in this respect; maps were generally bad and dear. There are now very good maps published in France, Italy, Germany, &c., of the various divisions of those countries ; but they are difficult to be obtained in England, and they are expensive. The maps published by the Society of Useful Knowledge have been constructed on the best existing authorities, and their extreme cheapness makes them accessible to almost every one.

We would now, in conclusion, address ourselves particularly to writers on foreign countries, whether geographers, travellers, essayists, novelists, or contributors to periodicals. We would impress upon them the propriety, the necessity, of discriminating and ascertaining facts, before they put forth their statements; of making use of the art of a critic in examining their authorities; of avoiding generalities and the use of superlatives ; and of such hackneyed epithets as “barbarous, slavish, fanatical, bigoted, lazy, cowardly," which are seldom applicable to whole nations, at least within Europe; of stating facts before opinions, and, when they have no facts to state, of not dealing in surmises and hazarded inferences. We have already exemplified our remarks on this subject in speaking of Italy* ; we may do it again with regard to other countries, for we think it is our duty to combat error under whatever shape it may show itself. No national or political partiality ought to stand in the way of truth, for error can never be a good auxiliary even in a good cause. We would impress upon all writers a due sense of the responsibility which they incur by propa

* See Nos. IV, and VIII. of the Quarterly Journal of Edacation.

gating erroneous or hasty judgments and opinions, Men should be even more cautious about what they write than about what they speak; but we fear the reverse is most commonly the case. What is said in conversation is often unheeded, and generally forgotten; while everything that goes forth in print is sure to attract the attention of many, perhaps of thousands, and to be remembered by some. Hence the mass of prejudices, already, one would think, sufficiently great, is daily increasing. And that prejudice will bring forth practical mischief, who can doubt? In these times, when most people read something, the danger becomes much greater. In countries where a great proportion of the people take part in political questions, and have a voice, although indirect, in the legislature, who can calculate the consequences of erroneous impressions spread among them concerning other countries? It is not the first time that nations have waged destructive wars against each other through irrational prejudices which they had imbibed from their parents or teachers. At all events, war has ever been carried on in a deeper spirit of atrocity when one or each of the parties looked upon the other as barbarians, slaves, or infidels. Witness the wars of Rome, those of the Turks, and others which we might mention. Men feel little compunction in tormenting and exterminating those whom they consider as a degraded race.




(From the Quarterly Journal of Education, No. V.)

One of the first things which will strike an observer of modern education is the fact, that there are now few young people, in the middling and upper classes, who do not early receive some explanations, or what are intended for such, of the phenomena of nature. Not only do most parents conceive themselves qualified to give their children the first lessons in physics and astronomy, but the works of amusement which are so constantly in the hands of little boys and girls generally contain some information on the subject. Since it is certain that the reasons and methods of arguing which are applied to sensible phenomena are more likely to obtain a hold on the mind of an infant than any other whatever, it will appear of considerable importance to all who rightly estimate the force of early impressions that the first inquiries on this subject should be answered in a rational manner. To many it appears of little consequence what a child learns, as long as he is, in the common phrase, kept out of mischief. On this head we commence with a few observations.

It is often assumed that the most important object of education, namely, the formation of character, is entirely attained by teaching the principles of religion and morality; that is, it is not suspected that the manner in which other things are taught to the child has any

effect upon the moral feeling of the man. It would be thought ridiculous by many were we to assert that evil is often chosen in preference to good, not from any lack of desire to do what is right, but from a want of means to distinguish clearly, in difficult circumstances, where the proper course lies. This opinion we are, notwithstanding, disposed to maintain, even to the extent of saying, that more evil is done by misdirected than by dishonest views, and that the accumulated mischiefs arising from error are of greater prejudice to the advancement of society than those which have their origin in abandonment of principle. There are but few who can say that the greatest portion of detriment which has arisen to them out of the conduct of others has proceeded from malignant or dishonest intentions. This being admitted, we must look for the rise of much evil to some other source than intentional departure from the principles of morality; and we have not far to go, if we recollect that the rules which are laid down for the guidance of any one member of society in his multifarious dealings with the rest are few and general, frequently misunderstood and as frequently misapplied. The first arises from the vague and erroneous use of words, the second from the want of habit of seizing all the circumstances of a case, and of reasoning correctly upon them. And this being the state of the majority of mankind, the criminal designs of one may be advanced by the errors of thousands. Thus a potentate, who incites his people to slaughter, declaring that God is with him and will fight against his enemies, utters his blasphemous nonsense in the conviction, that, of all whom he addresses, the few who have been taught to think are no match for the many, high and low, who are incapable of any such exercise. At this moment we see hundreds on the verge of crime and misery,* because they cannot see through the misapplication of a few words. Never was there a time when it was more clearly shown that ignorance produces as many disasters as malevolence; and though unfortunately it is not yet universally true that better principles of education have reached the lower as well as the middling and upper classes of society, yet the obvious good effects of enlightenment, where it exists, upon the former should tempt those engaged in the instruction of the two latter to inquire, whether all the good which is attainable is yet attained, and whether there is not room for suspicion that the bad habits of mind, which, in their extreme state, lead to such fearful results, have always been producing a pernicious, though more quiet effect upon that portion of mankind which is supposed to have better opportunities of instruction.

The first education of children, though not formally called by that name, consists in the answers which are given to the numerous questions put by them on the nature, object, and cause of every phenomenon which catches their attention. The intelligent, and frequently unanswerable, inquiries of an infant, whose thoughts have not yet been chained by our common routine of expressions, and whose appetite for investigation has not been destroyed by receiving only words where he looked for ideas, furnish a lesson of no small profit to the philosophic observer. The first impulse given to mental action is the result of an instinct of curiosity, a desire to search to the very source the cause of all that is seen and heard. Hence children of any intelligence break

* This was written at a time of great political excitement, when there were people who imagined that a conviction that their own rights were attacked gave them a right to abolish the right of their opponents to live in peace in their own houses.

« AnteriorContinuar »