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But when I have said, that the boarding schools are preferable to free schools, as being in the country, this is certainly the only advantage I can allow them, otherwise it is impossible to conceive the ignorance of those who take upon them the important trust of education. Is any man unfit for any of the professions; he finds his last resource in setting up school. Do any become bankrupts in trade; they still set up a boarding school, and drive a trade this way, when all others fail: nay, I have been told of butchers and barbers, who have turned school-masters; and, more surprising still, made fortunes in their new profession.
Could we think ourselves in a country of civilized people; could it be conceived that we have any regard for posterity, when such are permitted to take the charge of the morals, genius, and health of those dear little pledges, who may one day be the guardians of the liberties of Europe, and who may serve as the honour and bulwark of their aged parents 2 The care of our children, is it below the state 2 is it fit to indulge the caprice of the ignorant with the disposal of their children in this particular * For the state to take the charge of all its children, as in Persia or Sparta, might at present be inconvenient; but, surely, with great ease it might cast an eye to their instructors. Of all members of society, I do not know a more useful, or a more honourable one, than a school-master; at the same time that I do not see any more generally despised, or whose talents are so ill rewarded.
Were the salaries of school-masters to be augmented from a diminution of useless sinecures, how might it turn to the advantage of this people; a people whom, without flattery, I may, in other respects, term the wisest and greatest upon earth ! But while I would reward the deserving, I would
dismiss those utterly unqualified for their employment: in WOL. I. h
short, I would make the business of a school-master every way more respectable, by increasing their salaries, and admitting only men of proper abilities. There are already school-masters appointed, and they have some small salaries; but where at present there is but one school-master appointed, there should at least be two ; and wherever the salary is at present twenty pounds, it should be a hundred. Do we give immoderate benefices to those who instruct ourselves, and shall we deny even subsistence to those who instruct our children P Every member of society should be paid in proportion as he is necessary : and I will be bold enough to say, that school-masters in a state are more necessary than clergymen, as children stand in more need of instruction than their parents. But instead of this, as I have already observed, we send them to board in the country to the most ignorant set of men that can be imagined. But, lest the ignorance of the master be not sufficient, the child is generally consigned to the usher. This is usually some poor needy animal, little superior to a footman either in learning or spirit, invited to his place by an advertisement, and kept there merely from his being of a complying disposition, and making the children fond of him. “You give your child to be educated to a slave,” says a philosopher to a rich man ; “instead of one slave, you will then have two.” It were well, however, if parents, upon fixing their children in one of these houses, would examine the abilities of the usher as well as of the master; for, whatever they are told to the contrary, the usher is generally the person most employed in their education. If, then, a gentleman, upon putting out his son to one of these houses, sees the usher disregarded by the master, he may depend upon it, that he is equally disregarded by the boys: the truth is, in spite of
all their endeavours to please, they are generally the laughing stock of the school. Every trick is played upon the usher; the oddity of his manners, his dress, or his language, is a fund of eternal ridicule; the master himself now and then cannot avoid joining in the laugh, and the poor wretch, eternally resenting this ill usage, seems to live in a state of war with all the family. This is a very proper person, is it not, to give children a relish for learning 2 They must esteem learning very much, when they see its professors used with such ceremony. If the usher be despised, the father may be assured his child will never be properly instructed. But let me suppose, that there are some schools without these inconveniences, where the master and ushers are men of learning, reputation, and assiduity. If there are to be found such, they cannot be prized in a state sufficiently. A boy will learn more true wisdom in a public school in a year, than by a private education in five. It is not from masters, but from their equals, youth learn a knowledge of the world: the little tricks they play each other, the punishment that frequently attends the commission, is a just picture of the great world, and all the ways of men are practised in a public school in miniature. It is true, a child is early made acquainted with some vices in a school, but it is better to know these when a boy, than be first taught them when a man ; for their novelty then may have irresistible charms. In a public education, boys early learn temperance; and if the parents and friends would give them less money upon their usual visits, it would be much to their advantage; since it may justly be said, that a great part of their disorders arise from surfeit, plus occidit gula quam gladius. And now I am come to the article of health, it may not be amiss to observe, that Mr. Locke and some others have advised that children should be inured to cold, to fatigue, and hardship from their youth; but Mr. Locke was but an indifferent physician. Habit, I grant, has great influence over our constitutions, but we have not precise ideas upon this subject. We know that among savages, and even among our peasants, there are found children born with such constitutions, that they cross rivers by swimming, endure cold, thirst, hunger, and want of sleep to a surprising degree; that when they happen to fall sick, they are cured without the help of medicine by nature alone. Such examples are adduced to persuade us to imitate their manner of education, and accustom ourselves betimes to support the same fatigues. But had these gentlemen considered first, that those savages and peasants are generally not so long-lived as they who have led a more indolent life: secondly, that the more laborious the life is, the less populous is the country: had they considered, that what physicians call the stamina vitae, by fatigue and labour become rigid, and thus anticipate old age; that the number who survive those rude trials, bears no proportion to those who die in the experiment—had these things been properly considered, they would not have thus extolled an education begun in fatigue and hardships. Peter the Great, willing to enure the children of his seamen to a life of hardship, ordered that they should drink only sea water, but they unfortunately all died under the experiment. But while I would exclude all unnecessary labours, yet still I would recommend temperance in the highest degree. No luxurious dishes with high-seasoning, nothing given children to force an appetite, as little sugared or salted provisions as possible, though never so pleasing; but milk, morning and night, should be their constant food. This diet would make them more healthy than any of those slops that are usually cooked by the mistress of a boarding school; besides, it corrects any consumptive habits, i. not unfrequently found amongst the children. Cf. city parents. As boys should be educated with temperance, so the first greatest lesson that should be taught them is, to admire frugality. It is by the exercise of this virtue alone, they can ever expect to be useful members of society. It is true, lectures continually repeated upon this subject may make some boys, when they grow up, run into an extreme, and become misers; but it were well, had we more misers than we have among us. I know few characters more useful in society, for a man's having a larger or smaller share of money lying useless by him, no way injures the common wealth : since, should every miser now exhaust his stores, this might make gold more plenty, but it would not increase the commodities or pleasures of life; they would still remain as they are at present: it matters not, therefore, whether men are misers or not, if they be only frugal, laborious, and fill the station they have chosen. If they deny themselves the necessaries of life, society is no way injured by their folly. Instead, therefore, of romances, which praise young men of spirit, who go through a variety of adventures, and at last conclude a life of dissipation, folly, and extravagance in riches and matrimony, there should be some men of wit employed to compose books that might equally interest the passions of our youth, where such an one might be praised for having resisted allurements when young, and how he at last became lord mayor; how he was married to a lady of great sense, fortune, and beauty: to be as explicit as possible, the old story of Whittington, were his cat left out, might be more serviceable to the tender mind, than either Tom Jones, Joseph Andrews, or a hundred others,