Page images
PDF
EPUB

results from this freedom of arrangement, the difficulty of translating from a tongue so unlike our own, and the consequent time and care necessarily bestowed in tracing the thought through the mazy labyrinths of expression, and in placing it afterwards in the simpler structure of English speech. The simple yet important result of this is a study of the thought in the highest degree thorough. This I believe to be the chief secret of the excellence of classical training.

In the first place, classical literature embodies thought of the highest beauty, sublimity, and truth, expressed in a style of unrivalled excellence. In the second place, the stndy of this the ugıt, this style, must, from the nature of the languarges, be so careful, slow, and thorough, that it is scarcely possible any excellence should escape notice, that any beauty should fail to please, that any sublimity should fail to impress; that, in a word, anything capable of of enlarging the judgment, of improving the taste, of ennobling the «man, should fail to accomplish its legitimate effect.

English, then, cannot take the place of the classics, because we cannot look at our own language objectively; because our own is inferior in structure, and nowhere contains the same quality of thought, in the same compass, and in a style of equal excellence ; because, finally, we cannot study our own with the same care, cannot, in fact, as every classical scholar knows, study it at all as we study the Greek or Latin.

Third. In the study of the classics the imagination is cultivated. This statement needs no proof. It also rests upon the fact that like begets like. If we study examples of virtue, we are made virtuous; if we study thought, we are made thoughtful; if we study witty and humorous productions, wit and humor are developed in us; if we study works abounding in imagination, this faculty in us is developed and strengthened. Imagination no where holds so glorious sway as in the literature of the ancients; and here, again, the painstaking care with which the student reads, vividly and permanently impresses upon his mind the multiform images of beauty, of grandeur, and of sublimity with which the ancient masterpieces abound.

Fourth. Classical study develops and improves literary taste, and gives a peculiar grace and tone to the mind which nothing else imparts. No one, with the least capacity to appreciate excellence in literature, but will become interested in the classic authors he reads. He cannot fail to observe in them those things which constitute their superiority—a “luminous clearness” of expression, sparingness and chasteness of ornament, the beauty and fitness of the figures, simplicity of thought; and in the poets the wonderful fertility of invention, constantly weaving new delights, and constantly shifting the scenes with a consummate skill that ever challenges his admiration. Who can become familiar with the classical masterpieces and not have his mind imbued with such ideas of beauty, and grace, and all excellence, in style and sentiment, as shall forever lead him to discard what is meretricious and to love only

what is worthy in literary composition? What classical student is not influenced by his studies to a taste for literature in general ? Dull must be the mind that Virgil cannot win to love of poetry, or Cicero cannot excite to admiration of eloquence. Space forbids further argument upon this division of the subject. Indeed, more is unnecessary, for the bitterest opponent of the “impractical” training I advocate would not deny its development of literary taste, but, while admitting this effect, would probably be content with asserting its nonutility.

I wish, however, to ask the candid and thoughtful reader whether the development of a higher literary taste in the-students who attend our Academies and High Schools, would really be undesirable; whether they have already a sufficient fondness for reading in general; and, lastly, whether a culture that might lead them to see greater excellence and more attraction in Virgil and Cicero, and in the standard poets and essayists of our own language, than in the paltry offerings of certain popular journals, would really be a culture to be reprehended by good men. · Fifth. The study of the classics demands and develops the same power of attention as the study of mathematics. The power to concentrate attention and thought upon any given subject is the first necessity of a disciplined mind, that which the student first needs. The demand for it in the study of a language like the Latin, or Greek is as great as in the study of mathematics ; because the translation of a classical sentence is in general as difficult as the solution of a mathematical problem. Let us briefly consider the nature of the work of translation. Suppose the student has mastered the declensions and conjugations. His eye falls for the first time upon a sentence he is to resolve. He knows there must be thought in it, but not a vestige of that thought does, he see at the first glance. He proceeds to find the meaning of the words. Memory must retain the definition of each. Then comes the process of construction. He notes the cases and the consequent relations of the words. Many things are to be considered at once, and attention must not relax, else the key will not be found. Presently thought begins to appear through the maze, and he is encouraged to persevere. Perhaps, however, judgment pronounces the ideas inconsistent or absurd, and he retraces the whole process to discover the error. The labor is difficult, is often intense and long protracted, with the beginner, as every one knows, who can look back to hours spent over a few lines of Cicero, or Virgil, or some other classic, in his first efforts to anglicise those authors. After due labor comes the sweet reward, in the shape of well defined and satisfactory thought. This thought must now be embodied in good, idiomatic English, and here is the exercise of expression. The thought again, appeals to the judgment, appeals to the taste, appeals to the imagina: tion. The mind is awakened to a varied activity. The process is repeated with another sentence. The ideas multiply and the faculties called out have wider exercise.

Here, then, have not patience, and perseverence, and attention, and judg. ment, and expression, and taste, and imagination, all their healthy exercise ? And can this exercise be unprofitable ? .

I will now ask, in conclusion, what are the fruits of the study of mathematics? What faculties does the study call into exercise ? Why the prominence given it in all our schools ? Is it the study of thought ? No. Does it cultivate expression ? No. Judgment? No. Imagination ? No. Taste ? No. Memory? No. “It cultivates the power of close attention” say its defenders. So I have shown does the study of the classics. “It cultivates the logical powers" is again the statement.

It is true that the mathematics familiarize the mind with a certain kind of reasoning, but their discipline here is a useless one, for mathematical reasoning, Hamilton truly says, “affords us no assistance either in conquering the difficulties, or in avoiding the dangers which we encounter in the great field of probabilities wherein we live and move." Says De Stael: “ Demonstrated truths do not conduct to probable truths; which, alone, however, serve us for our guide in business, in the arts, and in society.” Again the same author: Nothing is less applicable to life than a mathematical argument.”

Mathematics can be shown not only to possess little value as a means of cul. ture, but to be positively injurious in their influence on the mind, when made the basis of education. Those who care to read an exhaustive discussion upon the utility of mathematical training are earnestly recommended to peruse Hamilton's Essay on “The Study of Mathematics,” in his “Discussions on Philosophy and Literature”-Harper & Brothers, N. Y.-a book whose value to a teacher can hardly be overestimated. In this essay, besides the admirable reasoning of the author, more than forty different authorities-many of them eminent mathematicians—are cited to prove tbat the mathematics are either useless or pernicious as means of training, when elevated to undue prominence.

The only important value that mathematical training can be said to have is that of cultivating the habit of continuous thought. Not continuous attention, as I can but think Hamilton has incorrectly stated it. Classical study will as easily develop continuous attention; but continuous thought, that is confined to, and traverses, a straight line—that enables one to “keep the thread of ideas” in discourse or in investigation, this is nearly the sole fruit of mathematical discipline ; and no mean fruit, either; but of sufficient value alone to justify justify the subordinate use of mathematics in all schools.

As for the natural sciences, my narrow limits forbid more than the statement that they are nowhere made the basis of education, and probably rever will be. While good in their place, ample reason can be given for regarding them as inadequate means of mental culture.

I have thus shown the superiority of classical over mathematical training in the greater number of faculties called into action by the former.

That these faculties are the noblest in the mind needs no proof.

I have also tried to show that the same habit of continuous attention is formed by the study of mathematics; allowing to mathematics but a single peculiar value.

A few words respecting the relative value of classical and of mathematical knowledge, aside from other considerations.

In regard to the practical uses of after life, no study is more worthless, for men in general, than that of mathematics. Tbis needs no illustration.

The value of classical attainments, on the other hand, is easily shown, and may be summed up under the following heads :

18t. More intimate knowledge of our own tongue in respect to the signification and use of a larger number of words, and

2d. The consequent greater fluency and correctness, both in speaking and in writing.

3d. An acquaintance with one of the most valuable portions of history, and the consequent enlargement of the sphere of thought and experience.

4th. The ability to understand the classical allusions and to translate the classical phrases so abundant in our literature.

5th. The vast advantages given for, first, the study of modern languages; and, second, the study of the natural sciences, whose nomenclature is almost exclusively classical.

6th. Add to these the practical results flowing in a thousand ways from an enlarged judgment, from a cultivated imagination, from a refined taste, and from a strengthened memory, and who will say that classical training has little comparative worth?

In my next article I shall review Herbert Spencer's argument for the sciences, and shall in conclusion show the pre-eminent value to teachers, especially, of that culture to which my own indebtedness, and for which my own profound respect, have impelled me to take up arms in its defense, at this time of its inglorious neglect, in the hope that even by my humble arguments, some inquiry may be incited and some interest felt which shall, perchance, tend to a better appreciation of a branch of learning that has, for so many centuries, been the fertile source of delight and instruction to mankind.

Milton Academy.

The true teacher, forgetful of self, keeps the great-work of education continually before the minds of his pupils ; so quietly, with so little parade, does he aid his pupils to overcome their difficulties, that they are scarcely conscious of receiving any assistance. They are only conscious of victory, of growth, of progress.

To become a successful disciplinarian, vigilance, energy, discretion, firmness and mildness, are the essential requirements.

For the Journal of Education. THE COMMON SCHOOL TO THE COLLEGE. MY VENERABLE SISTER:—Your letter to me, received some months since, gave me great joy. I had begun to fear that you had entirely forgotten your younger sister. Your manner toward me when we met occasionally was eo reserved, and your bearing in my presence so dignified, that I was becoming estranged from you. Your children, too, the Seminaries and Academies, had given me so many times the cold shoulder, that in retaliation I no doubt often gave them occasion to feel that I was their envious rival rather than their youthful but affectionate aunt. But your kind letter has shown me my error and I am rejoiced to know that I may love you and your children once more. This love will be made purer by reason of your faithful and needed counsel.

I frankly confess my faults, and assure you that the figure to which you call my attention in the 12th chapter of First Corinthians, is one which I have often admired, and the application you make of the same to our relations, I most cheerfully accept. In connection with this thought allow me to call your attention to your duty as found in the 26th and 27th verses of the Fourth Chapter of Proverbs.

Your many expressions of friendship, evidently sincere, tempt me to lay aside the reserve I felt in your presence, and I know you will forgive any indiscretion of which I may he guilty, if I reply to some points contained in your letter, in such a manner as may be deemed by yourself personal. All that I may say, I can assure you, comes from a heart warm with love for you, and longing for your love in return.

It has been so long since we have had any familiar correspondence, that I am tempted to go back to my early youth, when your pupils were my only teachers. As a child I sat upon the hard bench, striving to conquer the mysteries of reading and spelling, to which you justly attach great importance. There were upon my teacher's desk books filled with strange characters, the perusal of which seemed to give him great delight. I can well remember the change that came over his face as he turned from his studies to hear me read and spell, and I can feel to this very day the shudder that used to creep over my frame as the time for my recitation approached. The evident delight of my teacher as he closed hurriedly the spelling-book with the stereotyped phrase “Get the next column," led me to feel that this was a task invented as a punishment for children whose parents did not care to inflict it at home, and so had hired a man to do this work for the neighborhood. Then again, my childish curiosity was so excited by the large words my teacher used that my whole time was spent in searching after their meaning and their proper spelling, to the sad neglect of many more common, and as I have since learned, more important words.

I remember hearing my teacher say often that “a poor hand-writing is a

« PreviousContinue »