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him be helped over them ; but never let him think of being led, when he has power to walk without help, oor of carrying his ore to another's furnace, when he can melt it down in his own. To excuse our young men from painful mental labor in a course of liberal education, would be about as wise as to invent easier cradle springs for the conveyance of our children to school, or softer cushions for them to sit on at home, in order to promote their growth and give tliem vigorous constitutions. By adopting such methods, in the room of those distinguished men, to whom we have been accustomed to look for sound literary and theological instruction, for wise laws and the able administration of justice, our pulpits and courts and professorships and halls of legislation, would soon be filled, or rather disgraced, by a race of weak and rickety pretenders.
In this view of the subject, it becomes a very nice, not to say difficult question, how far it is expedient to simplify elementary books in our primary schools; but more especially, in the advanced stages of a liberal education. I am aware, that much may be said in favor of the simplest and easiest lessons for children; and I freely admit, that several elementary writers of the present day, are entitled to much credit for what they have done in this humble, though highly important sphere. I am convinced, however, that even here the simplifying process may be carried too far. The learner, in many cases, receives too much assistance from bis author. Little or nothing is left bim to find out by his own application and ingenuity. His feelings are interested and his memory is taxed; but his judgment is not called into exercise ; his invention is not put to the test, and of course, his mind does not grow.
Moreover, too many, who would be thought students of a high rank by having their abridgments and elements and conversations and other stereotype continually before them, early imbibe the persuasion, that almost any science may be mastered in a few weeks; and, of course, that the time which used to be spent upon languages, the mathematics, and other branches of a public education, was little better than thrown away. Even in our Colleges, and partly I am apt to think from the same cause, there is much complaint of needless prolixity and obscurity, in some of the larger classics. It seems to be taken for granted, that every thing should be made as plain and easy for the learner as possible. Hence, to be held in check during a long and painsul hour by a single proposition in Euclid, is considered an intolerable hardship by those, who dislike nothing so much as close and slowly productive thinking. It seems never to have occurred to them, that this is the very kind of exercise, which is indispensable to give scope and energy to the intellectual powers.
In itself considered, it would be very agreeable, no doubt, tò master conic sections, quadratic equations, spherics, and fluxions, all in a month. But if this could be done, the student would lose incomparably more, than he could possibly gain by the saving of time and labor. He would lose nearly all the advantage which he now derives, from a long course of severe mental discipline. Indeed, could all the fields of science and literature be explored in a few weeks, or months; could some new method be invented to supersede the necessity of hard study altogether, the consequences would be truly deplorable. That hour would mark the boundaries of human improvement. From that moment, the march of
mind would be retrograde. Within one generation, there would be no giants left in the earth : for how could the race be perpetuated, without the aliment which has here, tofore added so many cubits to their stature ?
Once release man from the necessity of bringing his powers into vigorous action, and nothing could prevent him from sinking into sloth and imbecility.
Let me here, in connexion with the foregoing remarks, offer a few thoughts upon the method of teaching by lectures; a mode which is so highly and deservedly popular in the most flourishing institutions of our own country, as well as in all the foreign Universities. Without lecturers, in several branches of science, no College could maintain a respectable standing for a single year; and it is greatly to be wished, that more professorships might be founded in most of our public seminaries. But even here, there are certain limits, beyond which it would not be wise, nor safe to go, It is easy to see, that so much of a four year's residence in College, might be taken up in hearing lectures, as to leave but little time for hard study. Nor is this all. When a young man knows, that he is surrounded by distinguished professors, who are all the while thinking and writing for his benefit, he will be apt 10 excuse himself from close application, and to rest contented with what he can take down, or reniember in the Lecture-rooin, This arises from that kind of vis incrtice which must be reckoned among the laws of our fallen nature. We are, for the most part, so extremely averse to mental effort, that if we can find substitutes to trim the midnight lamp for us, we shall excuse ourselves in spite of conscience and our better judgment. Who is there that would not prefer taking as many eagles as he wants from the coiner, to bringing up the ore from the dark caverns
of Potosi, and carrying it through the mint by the sweat of his own brow? Let every student, then, be on his guard against those temptations to indolence, which lurk beneath some of his highest privileges. Let him be thankful for the assistance of professors, but let him depend more upon his own industry than upon ther. It were better for a young man never to hear a lecture in College, than to estimate his attainments by the amount of instruction which he receives, rather than by his own diligence and success in study.
I cannot dismiss the present topic, without adverting to the new system of itinerant lecturing, which is becoming extremely fashionable in various parts of our country. To condemn it in the gross, would be doing injustice to some individuals of distinguished merit: for it cannot be denied, that they have reduced much valuable information to a cheap and portable form, and have in this way contributed to diffuse a taste for science and literature among all classes of the people. These are honorable exceptions; but what shall we say of those pedantic smatterer in every thing, who are coming up upon the breadth of the land ; whose advertisements stare us in the face from a thousand hand-bills and news-papers; who are. ready to promise, and if you please, to bind themselves for a trilling consideration, not only to point out a much shorter road, than even a royal one, to the temple of fame, but to conduct their marvelling followers to the very pinnacle, before the disciples of Bacon, Newton, and Reid can fairly begin to rise, by the ancient steep and rugged path. What need, according to these wonder-working savans, of six, or ten years study, when they can lay open all the arcana of science in half as many weeks or evenings ! Nay so far is this literary necromancy sometimes
carried, that even a single lecture is expected to do more for the awe-stricken tyro, than he could gain by nionths of the closest application in the old way. While I appeal to your own observation, for the correctness of this statement, I am far from wishing to hold up any meritorious individual to public reprobation or contempt. Le! every one receive the just reward of his ingenuity and usefulness. Equally foreign is it from my present design to represent all attempts at improvement, in the methods of teaching, as visionary and hopeless. I believe, on the contrary, that great improvements are yet to be made, and that even now, writing, geography, and some other branches, are much more advantageously taught than they were twenty years ago. But I have no hesitation in
pronouncing a great part of what is pompously styled lecturing, upon natural philosophy, chemistry, astronomy, fristory, mnemonics, stenography, and the like, the most arrant quackery, that ever disgraced the records of learning in New England. It is the mere froth and sediment -of science and literature. So far is it froin raising the general standard of education, that its direct tendency is to discourage application, to foster pedantry, and to beget a general contempt for that long and tedious process, by which men have hitherto risen to eminence in general knowledge, and in all the learned professions.
I do not however mention these time and brain-saving expedients, as if there was any very serious ground of alarm. Such Protean forms of literary quackery, cannot hold the ascendency long in any enlightened community. And in spite of their present claims to public favor, it cannot be doubted, that intellectual education, in most of its branches, is steadily on the advance. Great light bas within the last thirty years been thrown upon the science