« PreviousContinue »
The accusations of Mr. Gibbon, which evidently from the proofs, adduced to support them, ought to be referred only to his individual tutor, are by him most unfairly applied to the general tenor of education at Oxford. The system of that university is undoubtedly faulty so far, as it leaves the progress of the pupil to the uncontrolled discretion of a tutor, who may be learned or ignorant, idle or industrious. The studies and the diligence of youth ought to feel the superintending hand and stimulating urgency of the whole college or university, acting with its entire force and governing authority. This is perceived in the university, with which I am best acquainted, * whose sons must advance, or leave the field, though the particular tutor may be torpid, or incapable. But on the other hand the able and active tutor in the English university can consult the genius of his pupil, regulate his studies at discretion, accelerate his force, and promote his progress, unretarded by the hebitude of classfellows, and unshackled by the chains of uniform system, to which in many places all dispositions in Procustean model are obliged alike to bend.t Who will deny, that numerous instances occur at Oxford of tutors, sensible of these aids, and communicating to the objects of their care proportionate advantages ? To many I could bear testimony, though unconnected with that celebrated seminary. Who could not ? The present revered primate of Ireland formerly afforded a memorable instance, and Mr. Fox may refute the stigma, which Mr. Gibbon endeavored
+ Thus in Dublin every boy is obliged to turn his attention to mathemacics and physics, though his bent may be entirely to classical learning, and in the latter branch all students read the same books; while at Oxford the tutor is at liberty to direct the attention of the pupil to those studies, which are suited to his genius and inclination, and to make him read what books he pleases. Again, in Dublin every candidate for a fellowship is obliged to be deeply versed in mathematics and natural philosophy, while the examination in languages is trifling. Would it not have been much more sensible to have had distinct mathematical and classical fellowships, according to the turn and disposition of men ? And would they not probably be better masters of each ?
to infix. If the latter's tutor violated his trust, the pupil might lament his misfortune, and upbraid the defect, but was it fair to whisper imputation on the general body?
The artillery of Mr. Smith is more powerful, and posssesed of a wider range. If I comprehend his objections rightly (for, though I have no doubt, that he meant to aim at the subversion of all academical institutions whatever, and to discourage all public provision for education, except the poor, yet his ideas appear clothed in studied obscurity) those objections may be reduced to the following topics.
First, that public salaries or foundations tend to make teachers idle. *
Secondly, that a power, vested in the heads of colleges co appoint tutors, augments the same effect.
Thirdly, that pupils should be lectured, not examined.
Fifthly, that these seminaries are not proper preparatives for the world and its affairs.
It will immediately occur, that several of these objections are opposed not to the existence, but to the practice of universities; and that their practice is often faulty, or deficient, it is not incumbent on me, in defending their possible inher, ent utility, to deny. In the university, known to me, both lectures and examinations are best adopted, and the utility of the latter in trying and promoting the progress of youth fully proved by experience. In the same seminary tutors are not appointed by its governor ; and the pupillary income of each teacher depends on his character and reputation. His second and third objections therefore, if real, and not founded in the prejudices of his own country, are not generally applicable, and were even particularly suggested to his mind by their nonexistence in Scotland.
With respect to the first the same objections, which have been made to a dependent clergy, might hold to a dependent philosophy, obliged to consult taste more, than truth, and fashion, than solidity; and even innovating Francef has al
* Wealth of Nations b.v.co. See thereport of La Marque.
lowed, that public salaries promote the instruction of the poor, who would not be able to afford remuneration. But inz fact the instances are very rare, where such foundations exist, as are supposed by Mr. Smith, or where the supports of learning are so great, as to enable the academic to get more, than the ordinary comforts of life, without having recourse to publication or tuition. There are men undoubtedly, who will be content to eat their imparted commons, and enjoy their gratuitous couch, unpossessed of money, friends, or fame, without further exertion or ambition. But in general human nature is too strongly prompted by the desire of something beyond the gratification of hunger and sleep, and by the emulation of superior comforts, seen around, not to reject such apathy. In many seminaries emoluments are obtained by great and dreadful labor, and when considerable, which is seldom not till after a lapse of fifteen or sixteen years, * a space beyond the ordinary chance of human life, and may be considered, as a few extraordinary rewards, held forth for the en: couragement of general genius, or universal industry, and therefore not thrown away, though in some unfortunate in stances they may happen to be bestowed on unworthy subjects.
I wish I could as fully answer the two last observations: Modern augmentations of science are not sufficiently kept pace with ; and I have smiled to hear a boy answer, that Saturn has fivè satellites, when his interrogator, confined to Keil's astronomy, knew well, that Herschell's discoveries had added two more. That colleges are not sufficiently rendered just preparatives for the business of life, I am also willing to ada mit ; and I have often blushed to see the adept in the beauties of Homer, and metaphisics of Locke, perhaps a man well acquainted too with the principles of geometry, or even the theories of Newton, yet unable to adjust a telescope, to survey a field, or make an observation in the presence of a common seller of instruments ; a common sailor or common mechanic laughing at his ignorance, and asking, of what use are colleges ?
* This is the case in the university of Dublin.
I really have known an excellent scholar awkwardly and vainly endeavoring to settle a telescope for a company of ladies, and a scientific lawyer exposed on a trial of boundaries by a paltry surveyor ; not to add, that sometimes a good Greek and Latin scholar shall not be able to write a page of tolerable English. Nor should it be forgotten, that the attention of modern times has been much turned to studies, formerly little cul. tivated, and still not usually made part of any necessary, or at least undergraduate course ; as electricity, chemistry, botany,mi. neralogy. I therefore would wish to further the views of Mr. Smith, by adding somewhat more of practice to theory, and by supplying some of those accomplishments, whose attainment has brought private academies so much into vogue, as well, as by varying a little more the student's pursuits, according to his taste, his talents, his rank, and intended occupation.*
Yet I must repeat, these are desiderata, not in the original institution, but in the practice of colleges; and should vanish in comparison with their advantages, some of which shall be hereafter enumerated. I cannot leave the treatise on the Wealth of Nations without noticing two most extraordinary positions ; the first, that force and restraint are scarcely necessary after the age of twelve or thirteen ; the other, that universities are falling into discredit. For the falsity of the former I will only appeal to common sense and experience ; of the latter to their books of admission.
Among all the assailants of collegiate nstitutions Vicesimus Knox appears most uncandid. The ancient scholastic disputations have in progress of time fallen into disgrace, almost into contempt ; but, being still required by the statutes of the universities, are preserved in form, because their acting rulers have not authority to dispense with them, and the power of parlia
* But I would not, with the peevish acerbity and false exaggeration of Mr. Smith, say, as he does, were there no public institutions for education, a gentleman, after going through with application and abilities the most complete course of education, which the circumstances of the times were supposed to afford, could not come into the world completely ignorant of every thing, which is the common subject of conversation among gentlemen.
Vol. II. No. 3.
ment has not thought fit to interfere with the will of the foun's der.
But would not a stranger imagine from the declamations of Mr. Knox, that these were the only exercises, there known ? Would he know, that they are held in as little estimation there, as by Mr. Knox, and form so small a part of college duty, as to be scarcely heeded among a multitude of useful and necessary offices ?
Let us turn then from such uncandid and partial reflections to view the obvious advantages, resulting from this species of public education; to consider the private instruction from the tutor, and the public lecture by the professor; the advantage of rare and curious libraries, with access to costly books and manuscritps, not attainable by a private purse ; the use of observatories and philosophical apparatus ; the benefit of scientific conversation ; the easy access to learned men, assembled in one place, who would otherwise be dispersed about the world, without any pretence or claim in youth to have any recourse to them for knowledge ; and the considerable addition to the sum of learning in the world in the knowledge of the preceptors themselves, taken in the aggregate, however idle some of them may be ; together with the observation of Mr. Smith, that, if the parts of education, taught in universities, are not always well taught there, without them they would not have been taught at all.
But the truth is, though these are obvious advantages, there are others not so immediately apparent, which the adversaries, who perhaps have disputed, or denied some of the former, seem to me totally to have overlooked. They are indeed some of the greatest benefits of college education ; but, being quietly and insensibly attained, do therefore grow without noise, and ripen without observation. I mean habits of study, regular divisions of time, habits of discipline and obedience, of early rising, of early retirement in the evening, diligence, labor, virtuous emulation, and such like. Is there no advantage in being obliged to read at stated hours, and to give an account of what has been read? The greater