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Need of Reform in Language.
tempts at improvement are either visionary or hopeless. How much we need a judicious, intelligible, systematic series of books of all kinds, and especially of a moral and religious kind, to aid in carrying plans of reform into effect. Without such a reform, Mothers in their families, Teachers in our Infant and other schools, will continue to grope their way along in the old track of unintelligibility, perplexity, mysticism and absurdity, disgusting the little learners at the very outset of their career in the acquisition of human and Divine knowledge, doing very little to develop and fit for future exercise, their moral and intellectual powers, and throwing unnecessary obstacles in the way of the instructors who are to undertake the task of conducting the higher branches of their education.
Take one single view of this extensive and important subject. Is not language the great instrument by which all truth, human and Divine, is to be communicated to the mind ? Does not the Spirit of God himself, employ this instrument in sanctifying the heart? What sure advances can a child make in the acquisition of knowledge ; how can you develop his intellectual and moral powers; in what way can you carry on any processes in his future education,-nay, how can you impress Divine truth upon bis mind, either in his reading the Scriptures, or in the Sabbath School, or in the house of God, if he is ignorant of, or has, at the best, but an imperfect acquaintance with spoken and written languages ? So long as he attaches vague and indistinct ideas to single words, or to words in connection, as exhibiting trains of thought, just so long must you fail in accomplishing the great objects of his education. He ought early, fully, accurately, to be made acquainted with his mother tongue. Now to do this, we want a new system of instruction, and a new set of books.
I reinarked 10 an Agent of Sabbath Schools, “You say that the Sabbath School teachers need enlightening. That is true ; but give them all the light posssible, and they can communicate it to their scholars, only through the medium of language. We ought, therefore, to go a step farther back, and carry into effect some plan for making their scholars understand the language which is used in their instruction.'
The Principal of our Grammar School tells me, that one of the greatest difficulties he has to encounter, is the imperfect acquaintance that the lads who are sent to the school have with the English language!
Will you not be induced, humble as the employment may seem, to delve and work at the foundation? There are workmen enough engaged in the upper stories, and I fear the whole building may be in danger, if some new stones are not laid to support it.
[During our visit to Switzerland, we were so happy as to form the acquaintance of Mad. Necker de Saussure, of Geneva, a daughter of the celebrated naturalist and pioneer of the Alps, M. de Saussure, and the widow of the son of Necker, the minister of Louis XVI. Agreeably to a pleasant usage of Geneva, she continues to bear the name of boih families. We were deeply interested in her views of education, and brought out to this country a work on early education, for which we have sought in vain for a translator. We are gratified to find, that the task has been performed by Mrs. Willard and Mrs. Phelps; and from the specimen we have seen, we trust the translation will be a valuable addition to the library of education. The annexed extract, on an important topic, deserves serious reflection.]
What are we to understand by the word reason? In the extended sense which philosophy has given to it, we employ it to express understanding, that great faculty of the soul by which we discover truth. Taken in a more limited sense, it is applied to the conduct of life, and continues to retain its first signification. Reason, also, as it is commonly considered, decides upon the relation of effects to causcs, deduces consequences from principles, and pronounces relatively to the individual, upon the advantages or inexpediency of actions. Elevated above the inequalities and weaknesses common to humanity, we may consider it as the wise counsellor, who, in the government of ourselves, endeavors to maintain an equilibrium between our different powers. If it finds itself supported by exalted principles, it takes a very elevated character. United to religion, it may become the loliy wisdom which comprehends our internal interests ; confined to the moral world, it draws from the constitution of society, practical rules for our conduct. Indeed, whatever principle we admit, and whatever feeling animates us, this governs, in the calculation of the consequences which we are to experience from them. Incapable of creating our various inclinations, it only teaches us to direct those which exist. It is then a regulator, and not an impulse. This alone shows the kind and limits of its power.
When reason considers man in the abstract, it supposes him endowed with the most noble qualities, and consequently points out to him the greatest happiness to which he can aspire. From this fact arise the admirable precepts which the wisdom of all nations has collected; but when reason addresses berself to the individual, she does not find in him all the faculties equally developed; some are languishing, others have an excessive activity ; and as she can only appeal to those which already possess a certain degree of life, there remain to her few general rules to give.
Yet the influence of reason is always salutary; it takes the future into the account; it forms a union among the weak sentiments, in order to subdue the more violent; it says to a creditor irritated by the continued delays of bis debtor, - If you cause this man to be imprisoned, you will feel pity at the distress you will occasion his family, and the world will condemn your excessive severity. These considerations may be perfectly just ; but why has reason produced an effect in presenting them? It is because it has found compassion and the fear of blame; otherwise it would have had no influence. Such is the part of reason.
Its skill consists in balancing the desires, the one class by another; its resource is the action of opposing forces. Possessing of itself no power, and acting but by the aid of the very feelings which it is sometimes called
oppose, if it finds in the soul nothing which favors its influence, it loses all its efficacy. When this is the case, there is no foundation in the character, either for morality or true happiness.
Education cannot therefore attend too soon to the establishment of impulses; it should direct the development of the various faculties which act upon that sensible part of the soul from which the desires spring, and where decisions are forined. There are impulses of various kinds, which it is useful to distinguish. Some more particularly named instincts, watch over the preservation of our material existence ; others, not less selfish, but more nearly allied to morality, are stationed to guard that part of our bappiness which depends upon the opinion of men. Such are self-love and its various modifications. Others, more elevated, as the feelings of justice, truth, and beauty, introduce the soul into the calm regions where it is purified, enlightened, and enlarged. There are others more impetuous, which seem to transport our existence out of itself, to place it among objects foreign to us, and cause us to live in other souls; such are the tender affections, wbich, from sympathy, their weakest shade, to the complete devotion of love, cause us to experience for our fellow creatures, emotions as vivid as those which have self for their object. Finally, there exists one impulse which combines all the others possess that is great, tender, or devoted, which elevates the soul, not only above its proper sphere, but the world itself, and gives it a foretaste of eternity. This, I need not to say, is the religious sentiment.
This inequality in the moral value of the impulses of the human heart prescribes to us the course we should pursue.
It is the more essential for education to cultivate the disinterested and generous feelings, as these alone require culture. The selfish desires and physical instincts grow without care; they are even indestructible. Ir then you do not strengthen those which balance them, you not
Importance of Feelings.
only cease to make any progress towards good, but you deprive reason of the greatest force which she can oppose to unreasonable desires. Do we not see that the passions are ungovernable in selfish hearts ? This is what we do not, perhaps, sufficiently consider.
Thus each state of morality and of feelings corresponds with man to the idea of a certain kind of happiness; and his reason, liinited by this state, can indicate to him nothing beyond. Extol to some beings the beauties of nature, the charms of study, of friendship, of domestic life, and your voice will resound in the desert of his heart. If the effects of eloquence are transient, it is because it has only roused dormant impulses which very soon sink to their former state ; having never been called into action, they are not there connected with the permanent interests of life.
Confined to a sphere, yet reason does her best; what more could we wish ? Ask of her to regulate interests purely material, she will counsel to prudence; she will tell you to abuse nothing, to preserve your health, your fortune, and will make of you one of those people whom Socrates ridicules in the Phedore, in saying that they were temperate by intemperance. Seeking to make us avoid dangers, she will encourage the observance of the social laws, since we cannot neglect these without exposing ourselves ; and, without having the motive of hope to give us, she will have, at least at her disposal, a liberal supply of threats.
Where reason does not find itself based upon lofty principles, it preaches the morality of consequences; it leads us to view the results of our actions more than their motives, and shows that vice produces evil, instead of leading us to regard it as itself an evil. Ít thus enters again into the system of utility, the master-piece of its most ingenious combinations, insufficient, like itself, for its own ends, and without value in improving the heart. It undoubtedly possesses a repressive principle, but a force which can only be employed to restrain is often insufficient even for that. It is necessary to have the power of opposing one emotion to another, the sallies of good feelings to those of bad desires; for if the simple barrier of duty only is opposed to them, the violent passions too often overleap it.
That reason is indispensable in life, that without it we could not take one step, that it is necessary to govern the inclinations, or to direct them, I readily admit. I say further, that, in a very estended point of view, we see that it has some power over the formation of sentiments ; but it is an influence slow and indirect. In frequently repressing excess, it deprives the bad inclinations of exercise in the same proportion, and may, in time, extinguish them. There is implanted within us a principle of development,
a vitality, which, restrained in one direction, is borne in another; and even the feeling of selfishness cannot, for a long time, remain stationary in the human heart. The characier of the same generation changes little ; but what one does by calculation, another does by impulse. The religious and disinterested feelings spring up, and facilitate, in their turn, the work of reason. She then causes a prevalence of truths which have long remained dormant, and which assume a rank in society, as soon as public sentiment accords with them ; and when these truths are expressed in actions, when they influence manners, and institutions are consecrated to them, their real value appears, in the production of national intelligence and virtue.
But it is the correspondent development of feelings and intelligence, which produces these happy results, and these can be but little appreciated at a distance. Ages and people must be placed in the balance, in order to perceive the weight which reason has given to them. When she has not time to act, when her action is confined within the narrow sphere of the mind of a single man, her influence must be very limited ;-in order to produce grert effects upon communities, reason must have a simultaneous action upon many minds.
On all sides we discover our limits; this is what I propose to show. The emotions are impetuous, blind, subject to various excitements ; but they are the living forces of the soul. Let us cultivate them in our children, along with the intellectual powers; let us never leave them without nourishinent in the heart, or without exercise in the life, and let us pot repose upon reason alone. We believe that the greater part of the evils of this age may be attributed to that systematic personality, which leaves individuals without energy, as well as the political body without vigor. When one is attached to nothing, it is well for bim to be attached to himself. Selfishness is only a more severe word to express indifference to others; its natural effect is to neutralize all other loves.
In general, the fault of education is rather negative than positive ; it is in what we neglect, rather than in what we do. During a long course of instruction where all is passive with the child, without understanding the nature of the mind, there is danger that its fair proportions will be irrecoverably altered. The memory and reasoning powers are too often exercised alone, and the feelings are neglected, excepting self-love, which is excited as a stimulant. What may we expect will be the result of such a course? Exactly what we may observe with grown people, a great want of disinterested motives, and an ever increasing preponderance of those which are sensual or selfish; such cannot fail to be displayed