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I AM aware that the preface to a school book is not likely to be much read. Parents will not read it-they commit the literary training of their children's minds to schoolmasters, and leave the choice of elementary helps to their judgment; and schoolmasters and schoolmistresses are, generally, creatures of habit, content with such things as they have. There is, indeed, small hope for the compiler of a school book that teachers will pay much attention to a new one-they usually impute a catch-penny character to every work of this class, and manifest impatience of all solicitation upon the subject of one; so that the apathy of the very persons for whose advantage the book in question is designed, is a discouragement to the individual who would explain its specific purpose. But notwithstanding my knowledge of the fact that any attempt to introduce a new book of education into common use is not a matter of much interest to general readers, my conviction that the public has need of books better adapted to instruction than those now employed for this purpose, induces me to call even reluctant attention to this which I have prepared.
It may be necessary, in respect to some parts of our knowledge, to store the memory before we can inform the understanding, but it surely is well, so far as we can, to make all in
struction intelligible-to impart and multiply clear ideas as early in life as the mind will receive them. Because I believe that this object is not effected, but frustrated, by common school books, I have written this. The presumption of implied fitness and self-sufficiency, exhibited by such a purpose and endeavour, will be pardoned, if it shall be proved by experiment, that religion, general truth, and the rules of a right conduct, are made comprehensible and agreeable by the little books in which I have sought to simplify and condense some of their most important principles. I must entreat the favour of parents and teachers to examine my humble claim in behalf of children. that they will defer for a little while giving them books of History, of Eloquence, and of Poetry. Give them matter of fact, adapted to their capacity; and impart rudiments of taste, that are not "words signifying nothing," to the young and uninform ed. If parents and teachers are averse from improvements, and are convinced that modes and means of instruction in present use, are good enough, they had better examine the first fruits of education among us.
After a long course of study, and a large expense bestowed upon the young, they generally leave school with a lamentable want of all literary curiosity and application. Grammar, History, and Natural Philosophy, are commonly taught only in the technical way, and it is curious to observe what total disconnection exists in the minds of most young people between these studies and their practical knowledge. A miserable poverty in the expression of the English language, and ignorance of the world we live in-the moral world of time present, and past the physical world of nature and art, are characteristics of minds trained by the education which we pronounce to be finished. A little facility in foreign and ancient languages, with a very little skill in some fine arts, acquired by their children is too often all the reward, connected with the underwhich parents receive for great efforts and expense. would not be, if from the beginning of literary education, we should impart the spirit with the letter of knowledge. Intelligence is the source of our best virtues and enjoyments— to enlarge and exalt it is the duty of every generation to that which succeeds. Can any little book, or suggestion of yours
produce this effect on society? asks the parent. Can a spark kindle the genial flame-a little leaven, leaven the whole lump? I ask in reply. I would not appropriate these figures to my small contribution for the improvement of the popular mind but I would say, that the humblest judgment may be right or wrong, the feeblest hand may help or hinder.
Experience has made me confident that much may be done which is not done to enlighten and interest children—not by a short hand method, not with less care than ordinary practice requires, but with better adaptation of subjects and of language to the state of young minds.
The book to which these prefatory remarks are annexed, hás not, perhaps, an original thought in it. It contains no politics, no sectarian theology, no higher flights of poetry. It only pretends to simple expositions of Christianity, of History, of Morals, and of general Literature, in the limits which one little volume implies. It is not the aliment of babes or men-it is food convenient for a stage of intellect when the senses have been somewhat variously gratified, and the mind, expatiating beyond the existing point of time, first exerts the peculiar attribute of "looking before and after" the present moment.
There is an immense difference between the results of our highest and humblest style of education. If popular books could elevate the lower state of knowledge among us, and could elevate morals also; if they could diminish the attractions of low pleasure to the poor man; if, by early influence upon his understanding and his conscience, they could provide for him in after life better gratifications than the intoxicating cup, and the resorts of cheap dissipation afford-if among those obscure females who labour all day with their hands, education might prepare a willing ear for the page that should be, "by one made vocal for the amusement of the rest"-would it not be worthy of any well-intentioned person to furnish the means of such improvement-and worthy of any community to encourage the individual exertions that might be made for this object?
Dr. Johnson says, somewhere, upon authority more ancient than his own that there is as much difference between the learn
ed and unlearned man as between the living and the dead. Ignorance, indeed, places a great gulf between men in the very opposite states of neglected and improved intellect, cutting them off from all mutual enjoyments, and often making their casual connections and necessary intercourse distasteful and burthensome, through want of the multiplied sympathies of a common fund of intelligence.
It is a cautiful anecdote related of Dr. Brown, the meta physician, that when he received a visit from two respectable and intelligent Ayrshire peasants, they first entered his house by its inferior access, but after seeing and conversing with the owner, and returning again, they rang for admission at its principal door, and the phaosopher was pleased with this circumstance, "for it proved," said he, "that I had made them feel their equality."
The dignity of justly graduated self-respect, and the mutual honour of cultivated minds, are among the happy effects of general and rational education. It is that none in any class of society, however inferior, shall be left without instruction, which may assimilate them in some measure to the more exalted and favoured, that none may
"be forced Todrudge through weary life without the aid Of intellectual implements and tools"
that I have brought this mite to the treasury of common resources. The facts contained in this, abound in other books, but they cannot in their diffusion, be bought for a dollar. School books, and all books, presuppose a state of knowledge derived from a multitude of informations extraneous to themselves. I have endeavoured to afford the young some of this informa tion-it is the interpretation which literature needs for their use,
I have not attempted any explanations of scientific language or any other expositions of physical nature,—they belong to a different department of education. I have restricted myself to subjects taught in the schools, from books usually read in them, and my hope and intention is to furnish a book to be read, not one to be recited.